‘Bollywood does not need international audiences’
Published: 12:32 PM, 29 January 2020 Updated: 12:32 PM, 29 January 2020
Saif Ali Khan
Saif Ali Khan, one of the most popular Bollywood superstar and Netflix’s ‘Sacred Games’ star, says India’s massive film industry does not need international audiences to thrive. But that may not be a good thing, he cautions.
The 49-year-old actor, whose latest film ‘Jawaani Jaaneman’ is released on Friday, has starred in multiple blockbusters over the years, from ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ in 2001 to ‘Tanhaji’ which released earlier this month.
Yet even as foreign films like South Korean hit ‘Parasite’ find viewers and awards overseas, Bollywood has remained on the fringes of global entertainment, content to target India’s 1.3 billion population and millions of others from the diaspora.
“The thing about our culture… is that we don’t really need verification, validation, appreciation from an outside culture,” bonafide Bollywood royalty told AFP in Mumbai.
“There are so many of us that if we just keep each other happy then we don’t financially need anything,” he added.
But he warned that while such an insular approach may not harm Bollywood’s bottom line, it could be “dangerous” for the industry’s development.
“Cinema is about people meeting, comparing, collaborating because the human condition is quite similar. But if we isolate ourselves… I think we will lose out on something because we will keep catering just to ourselves,” he said.
“I think the role of Sartaj Singh did a lot for me. People who don’t usually watch Hindi films watched ‘Sacred Games’… and working with all those people in that environment helped my acting a lot,” he said.
As the first big name from Bollywood to embrace the digital entertainment world, Khan said the ambition displayed by Netflix and others has the potential to upend the status quo, even in movie-mad India.
“Historically the money has been in the big screen, at least in India,” he said, “so a lot of mainstream actors… would think twice before doing television”.
But streaming services are “challenging that notion”, he said, while also offering actors greater opportunities and contributing to a “renaissance” in the industry.
For his part, he has played everything from a commitment-shy chef in the 2005 hit ‘Salaam Namaste’ to a murderous drifter in the 2006 black comedy ‘Being Cyrus’ to a Shakespearean villain in ‘Omkara’, an Indian adaptation of ‘Othello’.
Describing today’s Bollywood as a “big umbrella” that accommodates art- house cinema, crowd-pleasing “masala” musicals, low-key comedies and even zombie movies, Khan said the variety helps him “feel sane”.
“There’s something always to be said for something that challenges you mentally or makes you feel that you are going into some territory that is interesting… I would like to mix it up as much as possible.”
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