Bollywood Meets Hollywood: Amitabh Bachchan Goes All-American in 'The Great Gatsby'

The trailer to Baz Luhrmann’s latest film, The Great Gatsby, was released on Tuesday and featured a famous face typically unseen in Hollywood productions. Amongst the cast of notable stars who are well-known here in the states, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Carey Mulligan, appeared the king of Bollywood himself, Amitabh Bachchan. Though the 70-year-old legend will unquestionably draw in a significant international audience, it is puzzling that Luhrmann would cast him for a role in a period piece about the Jazz Age in New York City. 

Bachchan’s character in the film is the shady businessman, Meyer Wolfsheim. Bachchan agreed to join the cast without any compensation as a favor to Luhrmann—the director presented him with paintings by a popular painter who had accompanied him during his visit to India last year. “He called last month and wondered if I would do this small role in his film, and I agreed. It is a gesture,” Bachchan wrote in his blog.

 

The trailer highlights the film’s presentation in 3D and features music by Kanye West, yet Bachchan indicates in his blog that Luhrmann’s goal was to genuinely re-create the novel and the era:  “Recreating a period gone by is always such a challenge. The research, the search of documentation, of the written word of the times, the dress, speech, ambience, is a nightmare for the production. But I must give great credit to Baz for having taken and gone into a most extensive and exacting procedure in getting each little aspect of the times of the 20’s and 30’s New York to perfection.” 

This brings up the question of why Luhrmann didn’t cast a more fitting actor to play a Jewish mobster from the 1920s. As an actor who has played in over 175 movies since the 1960s, and received nominations for innumerable Filmfare Awards, (India’s version of the Academy Awards,) I have no doubt that Bachchan brought his A-game to this role.  

Perhaps one reason for casting the Bollywood star was to make it easier for international audiences to relate to the film.  The Great Gatsby is a timeless American novel that is part of the curriculum in schools in the states; the book does not have the same status abroad. It is likely that the tale will resonate with American audiences, but it would make sense for international audiences to have a more difficult time relating. Bachchan will serve as an international touchstone, and as someone who is possibly more familiar with crime in India, he will bring his own take on Wolfsheim's character. An Indian spin would definitely be an interesting presentation of the famous story, but we won't know how Bachchan plays it until the film is released and we can see it for ourselves. 

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Sifat Azad

Sifat is pursuing her MFA in Creative Writing at Kingston University in London as the first-ever recipient of the Hilary Mantel Creative Writing Scholarship Award. She is a CUNY Baccalaureate graduate with dual concentrations in Literature and Creative Writing. Her piece, "Covered," was featured in John Jay's Finest and her short story, "Brownstone," was published in J Journal: New Writing on Justice.

MORE FROM

‘Girls Trip’ finishes second at the box office, outperforming expectations

The film's success once again demonstrates how diverse films are underestimated at the box office.

‘Insecure’ season two is television for us, by us — and it’s even better than before

Creator Issa Rae shouldn't sweat the Emmy snub — her connection with her core audience is what really makes this series shine.

We talked to military experts about who will win the Iron Throne

Does Dany have a chance? Historians, tacticians and scholars weigh in on the ultimate outcome of 'Game of Thrones.'

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7, Episode 2 Trailer: New alliances may form in “Stormborn”

Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen may have an unexpected intermediary.

Tyler, the Creator is still a “walking paradox” on the rumor-baiting ‘Flower Boy’

Is he queer? Maybe. Does he know how to use the speculation to further his art? Definitely.

Note to Ryan Murphy: ‘American Horror Story’ reveals don’t need to be a scavenger hunt

The title and premiere date of the seventh season of 'American Horror Story' were revealed Thursday.

‘Girls Trip’ finishes second at the box office, outperforming expectations

The film's success once again demonstrates how diverse films are underestimated at the box office.

‘Insecure’ season two is television for us, by us — and it’s even better than before

Creator Issa Rae shouldn't sweat the Emmy snub — her connection with her core audience is what really makes this series shine.

We talked to military experts about who will win the Iron Throne

Does Dany have a chance? Historians, tacticians and scholars weigh in on the ultimate outcome of 'Game of Thrones.'

‘Game of Thrones’ Season 7, Episode 2 Trailer: New alliances may form in “Stormborn”

Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen may have an unexpected intermediary.

Tyler, the Creator is still a “walking paradox” on the rumor-baiting ‘Flower Boy’

Is he queer? Maybe. Does he know how to use the speculation to further his art? Definitely.

Note to Ryan Murphy: ‘American Horror Story’ reveals don’t need to be a scavenger hunt

The title and premiere date of the seventh season of 'American Horror Story' were revealed Thursday.