Foreign actors working in Mumbai have become the latest target of Raj Thackeray’s Maharastra Navnirman Sena (MNS) hardline Marathi political party. The move comes after Thackeray’s group raided the sets of Abhishek Bachchan starrer Crooked, which features foreign background actors.
This not the first time Thackeray has had issues with Bollywood, non-Indian actors are now joining the ranks of the My Name is Khan cricket controversy, references to Bombay in Wake Up Sid, and Jaya Bachchan’s use of Hindi over Marathi at the music launch of Drona, in coming under fire.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity one of the British extras shooting on Crooked states, “Eleven people turned up at Mehboob studio trying to demand money from the film unit. What I saw was extortion, pure and simple. It seemed to be about getting money from the crew, and had nothing to do with anything political.”
Bollywood has a long history of using foreign actors, which in recent years has seen significant growth with Hindi films increasingly set outside of India. When film crews go on overseas shooting schedules, it is often only the exterior work which is completed, with much of the indoor scenes added later in suburban Mumbai studios.
Many big releases have shot with Mumbai based foreign actors and dancers, or tourists recruited from backpacker haven, Colaba. New York set Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna filming ‘Rock n Roll Soniye’ at Yash Raj Studios, and ‘Desi Girl’ from Miami based Dostana shot at Film City, examples of song sequences requiring large numbers of foreigners.
Bollywood has also attracted big name international actresses in recent years, from Kylie Minogue chiggy wiggying with Akshay Kumar in Blue, to Alice Patten’s lead role in Rang De Basanti. Tania Zaetta seen in Yash Raj outings Bunty aur Babli and Salaam Namaste, as well as British born Search for a Bollywood Star entrant Hazel who debuted with Mera Pehla Pehla Pyaar, have based themselves in Mumbai to work in the industry.
As India’s entertainment capital, Mumbai also sees actors arriving daily from across India hoping to make it in the world’s biggest film industry. Thackeray’s group which earlier targeted migrants to the city from south India, as well as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, has found little vocal agreement from an industry made up of actors from across India.
Marathi Item girl Rakhi Sawant, is one of the few public figures to vocally support the MNS, “Because of these foreigners, our Indian girls remain jobless,” she told The Hindustan Times. “These white girls are like lollipops that only last for two days.” Confused by Rakhi’s mixed simile lollipop reference? We sure are. But thought we’d take the opportunity to remind Rakhi of her Buddha Mil Gaya Indo-pop video, shot with none other than a troupe of Mumbai based foreign dancers.