Brazilian beauty Giselle Monteiro, we hear, is trying hard to speak her own lines in her second Hindi film. The first time around in Imtiaz Ali‘s Love Aaj Kal her dialogues were kept at a minimal and her dance movements had to be modified and simplified so many times they had become a standing joke on the sets.
Still it was the Brazilian Giselle whom we saw as Saif Ali Khan‘s Punjabi love-interest in Love Aaj Kal. ‘Saari Punjabi ladkiyan mar gayeen thi kya?,’ a fellow-filmmaker had said sarcastically.
Imtiaz had confessed he auditioned dozens of Indian girls but finally opted for the Brazilian. “I was auditioning girls from all over the country to play the Punjabi girl opposite the Sikh Saif. I couldn’t find the right girl to play the 1965 ki gali mein rehne wali ladki, purane zamane ki.”
Giselle one day walked into Imtiaz’s office to play another part. “Giselle came to me through dress designer Anaita Shroff. She was to play Jo, Saif’s Caucasian girlfriend in the second-half. She wasn’t right for Jo. But my wife who was there suggested Giselle for Harleen. I turned and looked at Giselle and realized she is Brazil’s Harleen. She didn’t know how to speak Hindi. But she had only two lines to speak, which we dubbed.”
About her lack of dancing skills Imtiaz had said sheepishly, “We wanted to put her through the paces with Saroj-ji (choreographer Saroj Khan). But it never happened. Saroj-ji didn’t have the time. For a foreigner to get the Indian adah right is very tough. We take for granted those nakhra-jhatka-matka which we’ve seen our sisters perform at weddings. Indian girls have those adahs without being trained. But for a foreigner it is tough. Giselle could’ve done with a bit more training than guidance.”
Once bitten twice shy, you’d think. But Imtiaz has gone and signed the half-Pakistani-half-Czech model-actress Nargis Fakhri for his next film. Nargis, believe it or not, has a far more pivotal role to play Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar than Giselle did in Love Aaj Kal. Currently, the talk of tinsel town, and not for her acting prowess for sure, Nargis wangled the role from the pretty Delhi 6 actress Aditi Rao who was shifted to the parallel role of Ranbir Kapoor‘s second love-interest.
What makes Bollywood’s filmmakers select firangi girls? Anurag Basu cast Barbara Mori with Hrithik Roshan in Kites. Mori, it would be safe to say, was a complete non-entity until the Roshans adopted her and built her up as a formidable dramatic actress encompassing the histrionics of Meena Kumari and the oomph of Kareena Kapoor. When Kites released, Ms. Mori couldn’t live to all the hype that had been generated. We hear she is now returning to co-star with Rajiv Khandelwal for a film where she has reportedly being paid Rs.12 crores. All we can say to that is, amen!
The firangi femme-fatales never had it so good. There’s Caterina Lopez, claiming to be a cousin of the one-and-only Jennifer Lopez all set to make her Bollywood debut. Chances are she would disappear as fast as Ranbir’s American co-star Sarah Thompson in Prakash Jha’s Raajneeti.
Sarah who came to India starry-eyed hoped and expected the Bollywood dream to unfurl under her feet. She had reasoned that if it can happen to Katrina Kaif, it can happen to her too. She forgot Katrina is half-Indian. Says Prakash Jha cautiously, “I cast Sarah as an American girl. I can’t speak for others. But I’d never cast a foreigner as an Indian.”
In Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai, Kalki Koechlin plays a half-Indian half-foreigner echoes Jha when he says, “I cast Kalki because I needed someone who could look convincing as a semi-Caucasian.”
Subhash Ghai who has cast a British girl Antonia Bernath with Vivek Oberoi in Kisna, thinks there is a valid reason for casting foreign girls in Hindi films. “The intention is often to make cross-cultural international cinema. Also, a white-skinned model makes a very glamorous image in our films.”
Lashing out at the trend of casting foreigners in Indian roles, the irrepressible Ram Gopal Varma says, “We Indians only claim we love everything Indian. In reality we love everything imported. We are smitten by foreign clothes, perfumes, cigarettes, liquor and of course foreign girls. Why do we have Caucasian chorus dancers in the item songs when there are such good dancers in Bollywood? We swear by the slogan Mera Bharat Mahaan. But beyond that we love everything from outside Bharat.”
Mahesh Bhatt, however justifies, the presence of foreign actresses in Bollywood. “Globalization means free movement of capital and talent. If Jacqueline Fernandez (who is Sri Lankan) makes my film sizzle I will certainly use her for my film. I am entitled to do so. But that doesn’t mean I’ll shut the door to local talent.”