Posted by Vivek on April 20, 2011 | No Comments

In one film, he thundered, “Mere Punjab Main Aisa Nahin Hota,” but now he is showing Hollywood, what Bollywood can do when the worlds meet. In another film he was called BAD MAN, but now BAD MAN is the flavor of the season in Hollywood. GULSHAN GROVER, revealed aspects of his life few know about, at the recently concluded Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, that of a doting father,  the pioneer of the Bollywood comes to Hollywood movement, and finally that of a man with a cause. His cause this time was I AM KALAM, the opening night film of IFFLA.

Gulshan firstly congratulations on doing I AM KALAM. What made you come out of your comfort zone of Bollywood and do something, so different?

When I first heard that a Not For Profit, SMILE FOUNDATION, would be making a film, I thought, it would be a very message heavy film.  But when the director narrated the story and his proposed treatment, my response to him was “Why me?”  When he explained the answer to me, memories of my childhood came to light. Education on the one hand but also being a financial help on the other, I did not see that as wrong and I do not even see that as wrong today, that if a child can financially help the family and still get his education, then why not, it is the most fantastic thing. So that is what convinced me to do this film.

Then when the film stated, all that had seemed like a sacrifice, such as a) I won’t take a vanity van b) I’ll fly economy, c) will not take any salary, etc, seemed to all not appear like a sacrifice but gave way to genuine excitement about my role and the film.

The  shooting was in Rajasthan, in Bikaner, on the roadside they put up a set. There was no room to sit in, no fan, an absence of a proper toilet. I have been in this business for thirty years and of that for around 25, I have been a star and there are some things, that are given. That was the toughest time. But the subject and the way it was being filmed, kept everybody inspired to continue.  When the process completed, I felt a great sense of  accomplishment and happiness, to be a part of this endeavor. I kept telling SMILE FOUNDATION, that you folks are going to get a bad name for putting your money into something as inane as a movie. But today it makes sense. They are being praised, their effort is being praised. A feature, which is well made, positive and fun, always gets a message across to a wider audience, than perhaps, a short or a documentary and does not even sound preachy. They have shown a new way. My friends from PETA who attended the film in Los Angeles, apologetically admitted that they cried during the film. But that is the power of Cinema, it does that to you.

And how has IFFLA helped in this?

I am very grateful to IFFLA for selecting this film as an Opening Night film. When they did that, I said to myself, that no matter where on earth I am, I am going to attend this film screening. I am right now in the midst of filming five movies, but could not be happier being here.  A popular face can generate a whole lot of buzz and publicity for a film, so this is my way of being appreciative of the opportunity to do a film such as this and also as a way of thanking IFFLA, for giving Opening Night honors to this film. In the heart of Hollywood, to have a festival that is completely dedicated to Indian cinema, is a matter of pride for every Indian. And I like to applaud the effort of Christina and everybody involved with IFFLA, in getting this festival to be the premiere event that it is. I mean you have to realize that this is mainstream Hollywood and an Indian festival in that midst, is an outstanding achievement.  You have Variety supporting it, you have the top executives from Sony.  It doesn’t get bigger than this. The net result is that the awareness about Indian films is increasing and in my own way, I take a lot of pride in contributing to that.

You are BRAND BAD MAN. What made BAD MAN the most sellable name from Bollywood to Hollywood? And how did BAD MAN become a GOOD MAN now ?

See my education is commerce. I have a Masters in Commerce from one of the best colleges in Asia. You create a brand and that brand makes you a star. That brand has a certain identification. So it was a conscious decision to make a brand. I had to turn down many films where they wanted me to play other roles, heroes, etc. There was a film called NAACHE MAYURI, YEH KAISA INSAAF  and many more. The makers kept chasing me asking me to play the hero and I was like “no way.”  I did say “yes” on being pressurized by T Rama Rao and Puranchan Rao, but then I was like, I can’t do this.  I said I ‘ll find you a better actor, a better looker, I told them, “do I look like a hero (smiles)?” So I worked on making this brand and that brand made me a star. I was never worried i knew a time would come, for me to experiment and now I do all kinds of roles, a comedian,  a bad guy, etc or even like a lead, as in this film.
About being successful in Hollywood, I would only like to take this credit, as my friend Anil Kapoor says, that I am a pioneer in this movement from Bollywood to Hollywood. Prior to my starting to thrive here, there were only people from Art house cinema, theater and then there were people like Noel D’Souza to Saeed Jaffrey, Kabir Bedi, but they migrated here and they were not part of the mainstream Bollywood films like me. And then I never left Bollywood or India, I decided to come here, do work, but then head right back to Mumbai. Like a Jackie Chan, who comes here does his work, but also continues to work in Hong Kong. It took longer, but I have made a presence now and also people realized that it is fine to live in India and work here.  It is still a while for Hollywood to truly accept Indian talent, but I am sure that will happen in due course of time.

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