Friday, January 20, 2006

Big B on Broadway

Although evolution has preached ‘survival of the fittest’, in today’s celebrity world, it is clearly ‘survival of the biggest’. And although that does mysteriously sound like the opening to a Viagra commercial, I’m merely talking about the biggest and most spectacular Bollywood super-icon, the Big B himself and his recent, brief press appearance in the Big Apple.

More than the man, it’s the aura today. This is the most apt way in which one can sum up the legendary Amitabh Bachchan. In town for the US television launch of the popular game show, Kaun Banega Crorepati 2, he arrived punctually and barely spoke more than a few words but left the press sheerly stupefied by his presence. He smiled as he gave soundbytes of “Kaun Banega Crorepati … Dwithiya” and did the much-imitated finger twitch that goes with it, with an ostensible comprehension that he is one of the few stars who can make shuddh Hindi sound so cool. KBC2 airs on Star Plus which reaches out to hundreds of thousands of Indian households across the country through the DirecTV network.

Moreover, as hordes of commuters drive from the suburbs of New Jersey to the bustle of New York City to work in the morning, they have another surprise awaiting them. In a publicity spot that was once adorned by the likes of Donald Trump and Coco Chanel, a large outdoor billboard placed strategically at the gateway to Manhattan, the historic Lincoln Tunnel, one sees the magnanimous image of the Big B cheekily pointing out to the crowd, with the tagline “Are you ready for India’s biggest show?”. Although the Americans look at it quizzically as the graphics are replicas of Regis Philbin and Who Wants to be a Millionaire, this is the first time that an Indian celebrity has attained this manic maqaam of mainstream publicity. Outdoor ads of Star Plus and KBC2 are now seen at train and bus stations, and community shopping areas across the tri-state area, which is home to nearly 600,000 South Asians.

Talking of big, the man with the largest Gross National Ego, King Khan pulled up to the Nirvana restaurant in Los Angeles’ cream district of Beverly Hills, a few weeks ago, in a sleek white Bentley Arnage, to hobnob with the who’s-who of Hollywood. He was in town to promote (read:lobby) for Paheli, India’s official entry for best foreign film at the 2006 Oscars, which sadly Black-ed out Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s hopes of running the Academy circuit this year. Although the film tanked at the Indian box office, Paheli held strong collections in the US circuit and Shah Rukh was quoted to be surprised that Hollywood celebs found the film to be rather entertaining.

And if that wasn’t enough to stir up India’s annual (albeit:sinusoidal) Oscar frenzy, US distributors of the Mahesh Dattani flick, Morning Raaga, submitted the movie for (hold your breath) the Best Picture category at the Oscars. Submitted out of pique that the film wasn’t India’s entry for Best Foreign Film, the critically-acclaimed Shabana Azmi-Perizaad Zorabian starrer was submitted for the mainstream Oscars on the basis of its US release, and has been cleared of all the basic selection criteria. Being the first Indian film to be submitted and accepted in the mainstream category, the crew awaits the nomination announcements, slated for January 31st, with bated breath. For Morning Raga, isn’t that something to sing about?

With over 1000 films a year, and slated to be the largest film production industry in the world, does India really need to run the American Oscar circuit with such overzealousness. Although the chances of a nomination are rather nominal, as India has historically only had 2 runners for Best Foreign Film in the entire century of Academy history, Shah Rukh Khan continues his endeavors to promote Paheli, as he has traditionally been one celeb who aims to have his cake and the bakery, as well. Dugna Lagaan, kya?

No comments: