Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra have taken both the Hindi film industry and Hollywood by storm in the recent past. India’s tryst with Hollywood, however is not a recent phenomenon (and we’re not talking about Aishwarya Rai Bachchan). We bring to you twelve Indian actors who have successfully carved a niche in Hollywood and world cinema in general:
1. IS Johar
Born Inderjeet Singh Johar, this actor was a regular presence in many Hollywood films like North West Frontier, Death on the Nile and Harry Black and the Tiger. He also acted in the American TV series Maya. However he is best known to Western audiences for his role as Gasim in the 1962 epic historical drama Lawrence of Arabia.
2. Kabir Bedi
The suave actor’s most memorable role is the 1983 James Bond flick Octopussy, as Gobinda. While the role did not do him much justice, Kabir Bedi went on to portray the lead in the Italian-German-French TV series Sandokan.This series propelled him to fame in Europe and made him a regular on European and American prime-time TV.
3. Saeed Jaffrey
Easily one of the most recognised celebrities outside India, Saeed Jaffrey was a versatile actor with fluency in multiple languages. This allowed him to traverse between radio, film, TV and theatre. He gained international attention as Billy Fish in the 1975 Sean Connery and Michael Caine starrer The Man Who Would Be King. His repertoire totalled more than 150 British, American and Indian films. His contribution to British Drama earned him an Order of the British Empire, the first to be awarded to an Asian.
4. Om Puri
Om Puri is a fairly regular face in international cinema. Most popular for his portrayal of Hazari Pal, a poor rickshaw puller in Calcutta in City of Joy (1992), he is also known to Western audiences as Zaheer “George” Khan, the Pakistani patriarch of a British household in the comedy series East is East and West is West; as well as other mainstream Hollywood films like Wolf (1994), The Ghost and The Darkness (1996) and Charlie Wilson’s Son (2007).
5. Persis Khambatta
Crowned Femina Miss India in 1965, Persis Khambatta transitioned to Hollywood with Star Trek: The Motion Picture as Lieutenant Ilia, a role for which she famously had her mane shaved off. She also starred in action and sci-fi flicks such as Nighthawks (1981), Megaforce (1982), Warrior of the Lost World (1983), and Phoenix the Warrior (1988).
6. Roshan Seth
Known most famously for his uncanny resemblance with and portrayal of Pt Jawaharlal Nehru in Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, Roshan Seth also played Dhalsim (pictured) in the 1994 Jean-Claude Van Damme starrer action film Street Fighter. A regular in British and American cinema, Seth also appears on British television.
7. Erick Avari
One of India’s lesser known exports to the West, Erick Avari is one of the more prolific of Indian actors in international cinema. His most famous roles include Kasuf in Stargate (1994), Dr Terrence Bey in The Mummy (1999, pictured) and Tival in Planet of the Apes (2001). He also makes frequent cameos in numerous American TV series.
8. Naseeruddin Shah
The talented Naseeruddin Shah has few but memorable international films in his repertoire. Western audiences remember him best as Captain Nemo, the eccentric genius behind the submarine Nautilus in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), where he rubbed shoulders with Sir Sean Connery.
9. Irrfan Khan
The acting prowess of Irrfan Khan has long demanded the attention of international collaborations. Along with more well-known roles like Pi Patel in Life of Pi (2012), Police Inspector in Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and Dr Rajit Ratha in The Amazing Spiderman (2012), his understated act as Karachi Police Chief Zeeshan Kazmi in A Mighty Heart (2007) won him many accolades.
10. Anupam Kher
Anupam Kher is another gifted actor with a long-running affair with Western cinema. He played Dr Patel in the 2012 acclaimed romantic comedy-drama Silver Linings Playbook. British and diaspora audiences also loved his act as Mr Bhamra in Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham (2002), one among his many collaborations with British and Canadian filmmakers.
11. Tannishtha Chatterjee
One of the country’s most underutilised talents, Tannishtha Chatterjee has been around for quite a while. She is best known to international audiences for her leading act as a Bangladeshi immigrant to the UK in Brick Lane (2007). She also played a miniscule but commendable role as Masha in Joe Wright’s 2007 adaptation of Anna Karenina.
12. Victor Banerjee
Victor Banerjee is another relatively lesser known face to mainstream Hindi audiences, but has a wide repertoire of films in English, Bangla and Assamese. He shot to international fame with Sir David Lean’s critically acclaimed 1984 adaptation of A Passage to India,in which he played the role of Dr Aziz Ahmed (pictured).He was also seen in Roman Polanski directed Bitter Moon (1992) and Foreign Body (1986).
This list is in no way exhaustive and there are many other Indian actors with a successful stint outside the country. Got any names? Let us know!