This fortnight, Irrfan Khan, who’s acted with Angelina Jolie, Natalie Portman and Gabriel Byrne, will be in theatres as part of the cast of The Amazing Spider-Man. Khan is the latest in a long line of Indian character actors who’ve made cinematic journeys overseas. We round up the best, worst and ugliest trips abroad.
Roshan Seth in Such a Long Journey
Gustad Noble, the central character in this 1998 adaptation of Rohinton Mistry’s novel, has troubles to spare. His daughter is sick, his son resents him, and his friend may have implicated him in a money-laundering scheme. Seth manages to avoid being subsumed by sadness, lending his character a tattered dignity.
Persis Khambatta in Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Khambatta’s turn in this 1979 film marked the first time an Indian stepped aboard the USS Enterprise. Despite going bald for the part, she was alluring as the ship’s alien navigator, holding her own against the veterans from the original TV series.
Saeed Jaffrey in My Beautiful Launderette
In this 1985 film by Stephen Frears, Jaffrey played Nasser Ali, the owner of a launderette in Thatcher-era London. It was just the sort of garrulous, flawed part in which the actor specialised.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in The Pink Panther 2
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan had appeared in international productions before (The Last Legion, The Mistress of Spices), but The Pink Panther 2 was her biggest overseas foray. She responded with a performance too reserved for the femme fatale she was supposed to be playing.
Freida Pinto in Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Until the release of this film last year, no Indian had ever been cast as the nondescript love interest in a big-budget Hollywood action flick. Pinto’s workmanlike performance left us hoping this trend continues.
Anil Kapoor in Slumdog Millionaire
Was it just us, or did you wince every time Anil Kapoor said “millunaire” in the film? His turn as a bullying game show host was a hamming feast: booming voice, bad accent, expressions like road signs. Somehow, it made him Hollywood’s go-to guy for ethnic roles: he was seen in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and the popular TV series 24.
Amrish Puri in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Nothing like a dash of exotic India to get those cash registers ringing. Amrish Puri might have secretly regretted playing the leader of a flesh-eating cult in the casually racist Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Mallika Sherawat in Hisss
In years to come, Jessica Lynch’s Hisss might become a so-badit’s- good cult fave. Until then, it’ll remain a garish, ridiculous film, built around a lead performance in which Mallika Sherawat alternately shows and sheds skin.
By Uday Bhatia on June 22 2012 6.24am