Tag Archives: 3 Idiots

Interview with “Brown Nation” Star Omi Vaidya

Few Bollywood outsiders skyrocket to fame with their very first Hindi film, but that’s exactly what happened to Omi Vaidya when he played Chatur “Silencer” Ramalingam in the hit movie 3 Idiots. After a few years and several more Bollywood films, the Los Angeles native returned home to raise a family and resume his Hollywood career. His latest project is the Netflix comedy series Brown Nation.

Omi graciously answered some questions via email about Brown Nation and his documentary Big in Bollywood, which makes its Netflix debut in December. He also had lovely things to say about his Jodi Breakers and Players co-star Bipasha Basu, because, well, Omi’s just a doggone nice guy.

Kathy: How did you get involved with Brown Nation? Was it already a Netflix project when you came onboard?
Omi: “I met the director, Abi Varghese, in 2011 when my documentary, Big In Bollywood, won the audience award at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. We hit it off and in mid-2014, he approached me to play the role of Balan in a new sitcom he was creating called Brown Nation. This was an independent TV show with a cast of minority characters speaking in English, Hindi, and Gujarati and financed by private investors–not by a studio or TV company–which meant it may never have been picked up. But it also allowed the show to not be limited by the typical stories and cast of characters you see on American or Indian TV.”

Kathy: What do you like about the cast of the show?
Omi: “When I started shooting, I was astounded by the amount of talent that was on the set. The cast was selected over many months and the actors that were chosen perfectly fit the roles. Many of them also had a wealth of acting experience and some were veterans of comedy and improv. It’s really the level of talent that elevates Brown Nation to a great show you want to binge watch.”

Kathy: Where are you finding the best opportunities right now: India or America? Are you more partial to one storytelling format over another?
Omi: “I am finding great opportunities in both India and America. Both countries are having media revolutions in the kinds of stories they are telling, so it’s exciting to be able to partake in both! I especially like it when the lines blur between the two like they did in Brown Nation. I prefer the efficient storytelling and comedic sensibilities of Western cinema, however there’s an exuberance and excitement to Bollywood that you just can’t get anywhere else. Plus Bollywood stories hit on topics that can be more relatable to South Asians so there’s value in that as well.”

Kathy: After working steadily in India for a few years, what made you decide to come back to America when you did? Was there ever a time when you thought your career might keep you in India permanently?
Omi: “There was definitely a time when I considered living in India permanently. Fame and fortune can be very enticing. But moving to different country solely for career opportunity has its limits. After 3 years of continuous work in India, I had huge professional growth but little personal growth. That’s when I consciously chose to move back to America, because it is the place I was born, grew up, and understood more completely. Although I have a huge fanbase in India, most of my family is in America, and it’s a great place to raise my son who is now 16 months old. My wife, Minal, is also finishing her post-doc at the National Institute of Health. We have a great life, and I still get to do what I love. I strive for a well-rounded life where I am challenged everyday. So in that way, I am blessed.”

Kathy: Having worked in comedy in both the US and India, what do you see as the major differences in comedic styles/preferences between the two countries?
Omi: “I am making generalizations here and there are always exceptions. But in general, comedy in America can be more low-key and subtle and ironic,  while in India the jokes can be over the top and less sarcastic. India still has a rich tradition of using puns or wordplay in comedy or jokes being steeped in innuendo or double meanings. In America, pun or wordplay humor is not as common. Neither comedy style is superior to the other and both really reflect the audience tastes.”

Kathy: Apart from the classic 3 Idiots, which Hindi film are you most proud of?
Omi: “I’m somewhat proud of my work in Madhur Bhandarkar’s, Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji. Although it wasn’t a major hit, my story in the film was realistic and relatable and I got to play a Maharastrian–which is what I actually am! Using my own experiences and some of my mother tongue in the film was extremely satisfying and allowed me to cross an item off my bucket list. Actually, it’s made me add another item to that list: Someday act in a Marathi film!”

Kathy: What are the plans for the release of Big in Bollywood?
Omi: “Big in Bollywood, the documentary that shows my rise to fame in India, is releasing on Netflix by the end of the year. It’s the true story roller-coaster of a film that follows a struggling actor who hits it big, and the perils of a meteoric rise to fame. Please follow me on Twitter @omionekenobe to find out more about the film and it’s release date.” (Since our interview, the Netflix release date for Big in Bollywood was announced as December 31.)

Kathy: Bonus fangirl question: I love Bipasha Basu, and you’ve worked with her twice. Do you have any good Bipasha stories?
Omi: “Bipasha Basu is a great woman and person. Many of the actors in India come from film families, and therefore they come to the set with a chip on their shoulders, as if it’s their right to be famous and respected. But actors like Bipasha and Madhavan came from middle-class homes, and they have retained that modesty and down-to-earth nature. Bipasha has presented a strong, smart woman figure to young Indians who may be looking for someone to look up to. And she’s beautiful too! When we shot Players in the northern-most city in Russia, Murmansk, it didn’t matter who was a star or not. None of the cast was recognized by the locals. But it didn’t matter what restaurant we went to; all eyes went to Bipasha. Even if she dressed like a bum, Russian men would still try to make conversation with her. They would say, ‘You work in Bollywood?’ ‘I know Raj Kapoor!’ ‘Awara Hoon!'”

Thanks so much, Omi! Check out Brown Nation on Netflix right now, and watch Big in Bollywood when it debuts on Netflix on December 31, 2016.

Bollywood Box Office: July 22-24, 2016

Madaari quietly performed to expectations in North America on a weekend overshadowed by the titan Rajinikanth. From July 22-24, 2016, Madaari earned $94,268 from 61 theaters ($1,545 average) in the United States and Canada. That’s pretty good considering the competition: Rajinikanth’s Tamil/Telugu film Kabali, which took in nearly $4 million in its first four days.

The cannibalization of screenspace by Kabali and Hollywood blockbusters greatly reduced Sultan‘s footprint, throttling the film’s performance in its third weekend in North American theaters. Sultan earned $298,753 from 114 theaters ($2,621 average), bringing its total to $5,897,836.

Sultan‘s competition further increases this Friday with the release of the Varun Dhawan-John Abraham action flick Dishoom, so it looks as though my projections for Sultan were a bit on the high side last week. A $7 million total seems much less likely now, especially with Sultan poised to lose half of its remaining theaters on Friday. It could still surpass the $6.53 million made by 3 Idiots in 2009, but even that’s not a given.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Bollywood Box Office: July 24-26

Bajrangi Bhaijaan turned in another stupendous performance in its second weekend in North American theaters. From July 24-26, 2015, it earned $1,561,179 from 277 theaters ($5,636 average), bringing its total earnings to $5,558,910.

In its third weekend, Baahubali earned a combined total of $621,706 from its Telugu and Tamil versions plus the newly released Hindi-dubbed version (which contributed $192,622 from 60 theaters to the total). The movie’s total North American earnings stand at $7,454,170.

It’s worth emphasizing just how rare it is that both Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Baahubali earned more than $1 million in the US and Canada in their second weekends of release. In the last ten years, only three other Hindi films — which have a much greater market share than movies made in other Indian languages — have earned more than $1 million in their second weekend here: PK, Dhoom 3, and 3 Idiots. PK went on to earn more than $10 million in North America, Dhoom 3 more than $8 million, and 3 Idiots more than $6.5 million.

July 31’s only new release is Ajay Devgn’ Drishyam, a fact that should make the producers of Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Baahubali very confident about continued box office dominance. Given past performances by Ajay-led action flicks without a prominent male co-star, Drishyam could conceivably earn less than $200,000 in its opening weekend in the US and Canada.

Dil Dhadakne Do hung around for an eighth weekend in two theaters, earning $1,202 ($601 average). Its North American total stands at $3,063,095.

Source: Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Bollywood Box Office: December 19-21

Update: Box Office Mojo lists PK‘s North American earnings as $3,565,258 from 272 theaters ($13,108 average). The movie finished in ninth place overall in the weekend rankings, just behind Top Five and ahead of Penguins of Madagascar.

Aamir Khan’s PK just posted the biggest opening weekend for a Hindi film in North America in 2014. During the weekend of December 19-21, 2014, it earned $3,508,980 from 296 theaters ($11,855 average). That total already puts it in third place for the year behind The Lunchbox and Happy New Year. PK will claim the top spot in a matter of days.

What remains to be seen is how close PK can come to matching the remarkable success of last year’s Dhoom 3, which earned $8,090,250 during its seven-week run in the United States and Canada. A more attainable goal is the $6,533,849 earned by 2009’s 3 Idiots, the previous collaboration between Khan and director Rajkumar Hirani.

Action Jackson closed out its three-week run by adding $179 from three theaters ($60 average), bringing its North American total to $256,872.

Sources: Box Office Mojo and Rentrak, via Bollywood Hungama

Bollywood Box Office: May 2-4

With no new Hindi movies opening in the U.S. or Canada on Friday, May 2, 2014, old favorites continued to pull in crowds at the North American box office. The Lunchbox — now in its tenth week — earned $255,736 from 141 screens ($1,814 average), bringing its total earnings to $2,968,497 so far.

2 States also held up well in its third week. It earned $167,377 from ninety-one screens ($1,839 average) to bring its total North American earnings to $1,978,594.

With The Lunchbox set to pass $3 million in North American earnings this week and 2 States about to the clear the $2 million mark, it’s worth noting the significance of these achievements. Both movies are romantic dramas, as opposed to action-packed spectacles. Neither film features A-list superstars (industry and audience respect for Irrfan Khan notwithstanding).

A look at the last five years of box office receipts reveals similarities among the sixteen Hindi films that managed to earn more than $2 million in North America during that period (five in 2013, five in 2012, two in 2011, one in 2010, and two in 2009). Four films are action sequels: Dhoom 3, Krrish 3, Dabangg 2, and Don 2. A small list of actors show up in multiple movies on the list:

[Somebody in Bollywood needs to cash in by bringing back Shahrukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan for Ra.Two, featuring Deepika Padukone and Katrina Kaif as the villains.]

The Lunchbox continues to earn big, thanks to its partnership with a Hollywood distributor — Sony Pictures Classics — which has dramatically expanded its potential audience compared to a typical Hindi film. Though movie adaptations of popular books are far rarer in India than in Hollywood, the success of 2 States should start to change that.

The only other Hindi movie showing in the U.S. the weekend of May 2-4 was Queen. Now in its ninth week, it earned $190 from one theater, bringing its total earnings to $1,417,405.

Source: Bollywood Hungama (figures supplied by Rentrak)

DVD Review: 3 Idiots

Buy the DVD at Amazon

After taking Bollywood by storm in the waning days of 2009, the superb Hindi comedy 3 Idiots was finally released on DVD last week. Given the quality of the DVD, I think it was worth the wait.

I was so fond of 3 Idiots when I saw it in the theater that I named it my Best Bollywood Movie of 2009. It’s in many ways a movie from another time, a throwback to the days when a comedy featuring adult characters could be family-friendly and didn’t rely entirely on crude scatological or sexual humor.

25 years or so ago, studios could count on moviegoers to turn out for light comic fare starring adult characters. In 1984, Police Academy, Romancing the Stone and Splash were among the top ten highest-grossing films of the year in the U.S. All three of those comedies featured adult protagonists. Films with older teen protagonists like Gremlins, The Karate Kid and Footloose also made the Top Ten that year.

1984 wasn’t an aberration. 1985’s Top Ten included Cocoon, Jewel of the Nile and Spies Like Us, while 1986’s had Crocodile Dundee, Back to School and Ruthless People.

Fast-forward to the 21st century and you’ll see a box office dominated by big-budget action films and animated kids’ movies. Top-ten performances by grown-up comedies are rare: Meet the Fockers in 2004, Wedding Crashers in 2005, The Hangover in 2009. As a result, this type of movie is no longer a high priority for Hollywood studios.

That’s why 3 Idiots was so refreshing when it came out. The road trip comedy about two pals searching for their long-lost college chum is universal in its appeal. It’s funny and sweet, something that you can turn on any time you need a little pick-me-up.

20th Century Fox produced the DVD and made it especially accessible for American viewers who don’t understand Hindi. Dialog is subtitled in English automatically without having to change any menu settings. Within the setup menu, subtitle options include Spanish and French, as well as English for the deaf and hard of hearing — which adds descriptions of other audible noises (yawns, coughs, chuckles, etc.).

Sadly, the bonus features are inconsistently subtitled. Since they were shot on location and impromptu, the audio isn’t always clear. Though the actors and crew often speak in English, the poor sound quality makes it hard to understand.

Of the four bonus features, “Idiots in Ladakh” is the best, because it’s the most visual. The short film chronicles weather problems that beset the crew as they filmed in Ladakh, a picturesque mountain town in northern India near the Tibetan border. The brutal conditions nearly left some crew members stranded in a blizzard and delayed the film schedule for a year.

The other three bonus features are amusing, but not required viewing. “Making of Miss Idiot” shows the costume selection process for Kareena Kapoor’s nerdy character, which mostly boiled down to convincing glamorous Kareena to wear glasses. “Aal Izz Well” looks at the making of the dance number that accompanies the song of the same title, and “100% Idiots” reveals that the actors weren’t faking it during the movie’s drunk scene.

3 Idiots is one of the rare films that I feel confident in recommending to anyone, so go check it out.

Links

Opening August 13: Peepli Live

This weekend’s new Hindi release is the black comedy, Peepli Live. Produced by Aamir Khan, Peepli Live satirizes the media’s response to the plight of poor farmers, some of whom resort to suicide to escape debt. The movie got a good response at a number of film festivals, including Sundance.

Peepli Live, which has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 46 min., opens in the Chicago area on Friday, August 13, 2010 in four theaters:

Other Hindi movies carrying over in theaters include Aisha at the Golf Glen 5, South Barrington 30 and Cantera 30, Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai at the Golf Glen 5 and South Barrington 30 and Tere Bin Laden at the Golf Glen 5.

In addition to those current films, this week the Golf Glen 5 is featuring special showings of older Bollywood movies. The terrific lineup includes:

Other Indian movies showing in the Chicago area this weekend include the Tamil movie Thillalangadi at Sathyam Cinemas in Downers Grove and Telugu flick Don Seenu at the Golf Glen 5, which features a special showing of the 1996 Tamil film Indian on Wednesday night.