Monday, August 17, 2009

Who Is The Most Famous Actor In India?

If you asked the average American, "Who is the most famous actor in India?", most people would say that they cannot name one Indian actor. Others may say, "That guy from the Harold & Kumar movies."

I know that this is unfair. Famous actors in the United States are usually famous throughout the world. That is because American movies are played in movie theaters in many countries. I would be surprised if people in India did not know the names of Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, or Clint Eastwood.

But foreign films usually do not do that well in the United States, with a few exceptions. Many British films do well in the United States. The film Slumdog Millionaire had mostly Indian actors (with a few non-Indians playing tourists), but the film was made by a British filmmaker.

Recently, the most famous actor in India, Shahrukh Khan, was briefly detained while traveling to the United States. He felt that the treatment that he received was degrading. I cannot disagree with him. It must not feel good to enter a country and be treated like a potential terrorist. I am not defending his treatment at all.

But I have to sadly point this out. You can be the most famous actor in India and go completely unrecognized in the United States. I call this “The Walmart Test.” If a celebrity can walk around in a Walmart and go unrecognized, then we can tell that the celebrity is not that well-known in the United States.

To clarify my points in this article, they are:

1. The treatment that Shahrukh Khan received was wrong, but…

2. None of the authorities could tell that he was a celebrity because he is virtually unknown in the United States.

There are foreign actors and non-white actors from around the world who are very recognizable in the United States. The actor Djimon Hounsou is a great example. He is French, has an unusual name, and is black (I would say African-American, but wasn’t born in the United States). While he is foreign and from a non-English speaking country, he has starred in many American films and has been nominated for two Oscars. Djimon Hounsou would be recognized in public. Many people would probably pronounce his name correctly too. While he is not from the United States, his work in American films has gained him an American audience.

Back to Shahrukh Khan. I decided to look him up on (Internet Movie Database), to see what movies he has starred in. He has not been in one American film. In this situation, while I feel that it may have not been fair for him to be questioned by the authorities, it is fair to say that in the United States, he is not a well-known person. He would probably not pass “The Walmart Test”. He may be the Tom Hanks of India, but still be a random visitor to the United States in the eyes of Americans.

Some may argue that Americans should know more about other cultures. I agree, but I think that we are improving. Actors around the world have come to America and made it big. Earlier this decade, Russell Crowe was the biggest actor in the world. He is Austrailian. At the 80th Academy Awards show (For the films of 2007), all four acting catagories were won by non-Americans.

Bollywood is very famous for the quality and quantity of Indian films, but Bollywood films have not yet made an impact on American culture. Shahrukh Khan is the most famous actor in India, but the most famous actor of Indian origin in the United States is… yes… Kal Penn from the Harold & Kumar movies.

If Shahrukh Khan can become the superstar of Bollywood, he should at least consider making a film or two in… Hollywood. After that, he will be recognized by Americans. Then if he ever gets stopped unfairly, maybe someone will recognize him.


Blogger vsk said...

While i agree that he may not be a famous person in the US I think the authorities at the airport could have handled the situation a little more wisely. Any south Asean at the airport could have recognized him, or a google search would too. but instead of that they detained him until someone from the Indian embassy called. Not only that one of US airlines frisked an extremely popular ex president of India at an Indian airport while he was holding his shoes. An american equivalent would be doing the same to one of the Kennedys. Makes you wonder if that is ignorance or arrogance.

3:53 PM  
Blogger vsk said...

I have to add that the offical accompanying him explained to the security officer who he was and the security officers reply was everybody had to go through the procedure.

3:56 PM  

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