It has earned her a cool £100,000 a day, but the producers of the forthcoming Bollywood movie Blue obviously thought she was worth every penny. Kylie Minogue, the Neighbour next door turned internationally feted chanteuse, is just the latest in a growing number of Western stars to have been lured to Bollywood by the promise of a healthy pay cheque, exposure to a large and enthusiastic new audience and a dash of excitement from the world's largest movie industry.
"I think the experience has been intense," she said at a recent press conference in Mumbai, where she had spent eight days filming two song scenes. "Many things I have done before, particularly making music videos, but in Bollywood, with that many people in a studio and the pace at which they work ... it was a totally new experience. The fact that I have been invited to come and take part in a Bollywood movie surely must be saying something about the feeling in the industry."
The Australian singer's link-up with Indian star Akshay Kumar in what is likely to be Bollywood's most expensive film to date – though still a snip by Hollywood standards at £20m – is just one example of the increasing cross-fertilisation between East and West. Sylvester Stallone, the gnarled, mumbling legend of Rocky and Rambo, and Brandon Routh, the sleek star of Superman Returns, have recently filmed parts in another forthcoming Bollywood flick, Kambakht Ishq, in which one-time Bond girl Denise Richards also features. Meanwhile, Barbara Mori, the fast-rising Uruguayan-Mexican actress is to feature in another forthcoming Bollywood film, Kites.
"Kylie is not only a world famous fabulous singer/performer/actress and icon, a man like me would do anything to have the opportunity to work with such class," Kumar told The Independent on Sunday. "We needed a song number that would blow people's minds, for this isn't a typical Bollywood film, where there is a song for every occasion. So this one needed to take our movie to another level."
He added: "Any actor from any country is always able to bring something new to the table, especially if there's culture or talent concerned. With me there is always a reason as to who and why we choose such international stars for certain projects. We don't just need a famous face; we need a connection. What's great is the world has become very open to adventure now – Slumdog Millionaire's success is proof enough. But now that Indian cinema caters to the world over, it's not just about entertaining or beloved home-grown Indians."
And it is not entirely one-way traffic. In an example of how Indian talent is slowly making its presence felt in Hollywood, the movie world is awash with gossip that Freida Pinto, the heroine of Oscar-winning Slumdog, is being lined up to star alongside Daniel Craig as the next Bond girl. Apparently Pinto – also due to be involved in Woody Allen's next project – has been invited to take part in a screen test in the search for the next in a long line of glamorous women for 007.
Of course, it was the success of Danny Boyle's rags-to-riches story, scooping eight Oscars, that drew attention to the potential of Indian talent to break through in the West. It also forced people to question why, even now, the overwhelming majority of Bollywood stars – unimaginably huge in India – have failed to have an impact in the West. Veteran actor Anil Kapoor, one of the stars of Slumdog Millionaire, suggested that an element of racism among Western audiences might be a factor.
"I think that Bollywood producers are starting to think globally and want to reach out to a wider audience than just India," said Indian film industry analyst Taran Adarsh. "And what better way to do that than have an international star? It can attract more people in Europe or the US."
Kumar, whose movie Blue has been shot in locations as diverse as Thailand and the Caribbean, has previously worked with international stars. Last year he collaborated with Snoop Dogg, who recorded the title track and music video for his 2008 release Singh Is Kinng. The film broke international records by having the biggest opening of a Bollywood film to date.
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