my humble theory on why another bond movie overlooked the bollywood babes

let’s shift gears for a minute and talk movies -more specifically, bollywood. and if i am not mistaken, this is one of those rare occasions when you will hear me talk about bollywood on this blog or in real life, or mention anyone associated with that enterprise by name. that relationship, tenuous even at its heights in the nineties when i was still an adolescent and bollywood was vomiting musicals by the thousands, ended with my discovery of the joys of more serious period dramas and dark humor of the hollywood in the late nineties. but i am a cinophile deep down and there has been an interesting development, ladies and gentlemen, that call for our collective attention.

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but before that, here is a times review of the latest 007 movie quantum of solace starring daniel craig and olga who? kurylenko?

Daniel Craig and Olga Kurylenko Quantum of Solace

Daniel Craig and Olga Kurylenko Quantum of Solace

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let’s begin exactly there: when the last bond movie starring pierce brosnan die another day brought in the voluptuous halle berry as the proverbial ‘bond babe’ and potential romantic interest, a glass ceiling was shattered. a black woman played a serious bond girl, not the cartoon character of a native as in the roger moore era 007 films. many thought that the next bond girl will definitely be from sub-continent.

now this is no trivial matter. an indian in a bond movie is just as important as a black man in the white house, and for much the same reasons. i am not kidding. the shift in attitudes and aesthetics and relations that it indicates is transformative and profound. cinema is a powerful medium, and for the past half a century the bond enterprise has reflected the zeitgeist of each period in the make and the characters of the movie. it is about time that an eastern woman, an indian one, played a serious role. eventually, yes, the 007 lead character should go to a colored man too, but we are still a little ways off from that. one step at a time.

where were we? yes, when speculation began on the cast of casino royale, many even mentioned names like the indian movie star aishwarya rai’s as potential candidates for the lead female role. the role eventually went to the french actress eva green however, and the overall verdict was that she did well. (by the way, is it just me or does katrina kaif bear an uncanny resemblance to eva green?)

but before you conclude that this is another spiel about the inherent racism of the bond enterprise and hollywood, here is an alternative theory: the bond filmmakers and casting agents did try, they did cast a wide net, they did feel the pressure -if for nothing else, for political correctness-, they were keen to give the lead female role of the next bond film to an indian star, but they came up against a tough obstacle – and i don’t know how to put this delicately- that almost all indian movie stars are bimbos (and this includes a good deal of the male actors but the term technically does not apply to them). they are pretty faces that crossed over from modelling to the movie industry without a grain of the serious craft of acting in their entire being. the only thing artistic about them is that they master the art of kitch. and they get away because their audience -which spans the world’s most populous continent, including this god forsaken corner of it- lets them get away with it. the movies themselves recycle the same plots that have been in the works for the past century and often are not fazed at shamelessly stealing from the more inventive korean and american production houses. and especially the actresses – they are consistently made into caricatures and playthings and beings that are as unreal and plastic and outlandish and fairytale as possible. an oversimplified checklist of a bollywood actress’s prerequisite attributes would probably look like this: long black mane, white (gora) skin, the basic dance routines, a background that includes a couple of scandalous affairs, and a look that conforms to the year’s transitory ideals and measurements -brains and individuality: the lesser the more attractive.

i have never heard of the russian actress olga kurylenko (as i had not of eva greene before she starred in casino royale) and i have not seen a quantum of solace yet because the pirated copies available in kabul nowadays are filmed in theatres and just serve to spoil the whole experience, leaving little thirst to watch the actual thing when it comes out in dvd, but i am sure that she is, besides a pretty face, a good actor with respect and seriousness about her craft. this is more than i can say about a long list of indian movie stars. and therein, as the old bard would tell us, lies the rub. it is past time 007 starred an indian actress as the lead female character, but all those on offer in bollywood are better off playing barbie as rapunzel than soulful, wholesome, perhaps imperfect but very real, individual, very human lead roles in a bond movie where meaningful dialogues and intricate twists call on everything an actor has got to come into play and make a role real.

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~ by safrang on November 17, 2008.

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