Bollywood Star Plays Dual Role in Disney’s Latest India Release of ‘Zokkomon’
Two Hollywood studios will battle it out for Bollywood supremacy this weekend, as Fox Star’s Dum Maaro Dum and Disney’s Zokkomon prepare for a box office duel on April 22nd. While Rohan Sippy brings Abhishek Bachchan and Bipasha Basu to the big screen in the much-anticipated Dum Maaro Dum, Disney is hoping its superhero action film -- Zokkomon, which stars Darsheel Safary and Anupam Kher -- will be able to captivate audiences in ways better than Roadside Romeo or Do Dooni Chaar did. At the very least, the film’s leading star -- who plays both protagonist and antagonist, Mr. Kher, who has earned a Padma Shri and won eight Filmfare Awards including one for Best Actor in Saaransh -- is happy to see American studios taking greater interest in Indian cinema.
“I think an American company has come because they see the potential of making their presence felt in the Indian market. Having said that, for (Disney) to back a film like Zokkomon
does add a value to the project. It’s fantastic,” Mr. Kher said shortly after the film made its world premiere and closed out the Ninth Annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles on April 17th.
As the film hits theaters worldwide on April 22nd, Mr. Kher confessed that Zokkomon is an important project for him, as he believes the Disney production helps him increase the exposure of Hindi cinema to international audiences.
“Zokkomon is a very big step for me as an actor because I do two roles -- the protagonist and the antagonist -- and that means the acceptance of Indian actors abroad,” the award-winning actor said. “When I do a film abroad, I find I am doing it because I am part of the Hindi film industry. It’s a recognition of the Hindi film industry when I work with Ang Lee (in Lust, Caution) or Woody Allen (in You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger), even if I am doing one scene or two scenes.”
Of course, it also helps Indian film industries -- Bollywood or otherwise -- to have a superhero to call their own. While films such as Krrish (starring Hrithik Roshan) have forayed into the space of mythical characters with human-transcendent powers, Mr. Kher points out that Zokkomon is a whole new breed of superhero films, establishing a new character identity for Indian moviegoers.
“So far we have had superheroes only from the West, whether it’s Superman, Spider Man, Batman... This is the first child superhero to come from India, and because it has the backing of Disney, I think it will make a difference,” Mr. Kher added.
In expanding the reach of Hindi cinema and Indian film in general, Mr. Kher observed that Indian cinema has made great strides in the past decade, despite being such a young country.
“I think any country’s progress in any field should be viewed from the point of its independence. We are a very young country, and there were a lot of other social (and) political reform sort of things that we needed to settle down with,” Mr. Kher said. “But cinema has been a very unifying factor. It unifies people. I think, in the last 10 years, cinema has changed completely -- globally and in India especially.
“The audience is comfortable, the audience is educated, the audience is open to this globalization. I will say this is the Golden Era of Indian cinema.”
While it may very well be the Golden Era of Indian cinema, Mr. Kher also acknowledged that the past decade has been just as exciting halfway around the world in Los Angeles, where the Indian Film Festival of L.A. has been instrumental in bringing together Hollywood and India’s many evolutions film.
“For the last nine years, you are having IFFLA over here. The fact that all the foreign companies dealing with cinema … are coming to India, they recognize it much more than we are recognizing it,” Mr. Kher said. “It’s a very proud moment for being a part of Indian cinema.”
A very proud moment indeed, both for Mr. Kher and the whole of Indian cinema, and neither the actor nor the industry will need Zokkomon to perform well at the box office to validate their respective positions on the global stage. Of course, Disney hopes moviegoers the world over will trek to theaters and multiplexes these next few weeks to take in its latest foray into Indian cinema.