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10 Indian Actors Who Captured the Western Imagination With Memorable Hollywood Roles – MovieWeb

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From Priyanka Chopra to Dhanush, here are 10 Indian actors who have captured the western imagination with memorable Hollywood roles.
International cinema is the powerful new trend right now. The global audience is sharing an ever-increasing enthusiasm for movies outside Hollywood. Streaming services like Netflix, with their vast libraries of foreign-language films, are credited with a large part in this phenomenon. Intent on producing local content to keep their international customers happy, per Collider, they have managed to convert their American audience to foreign-language films as well.
The Indian film industry, in particular, is turning up as one of the major sources of international hits. The South Indian movie RRR has attracted a global spotlight on Indian filmmaking cultures and on its regional stars, N. T. Rama Rao Jr. and Ram Charan. All of this simply means that we will likely be seeing more collaborations between Hollywood and Indian talent. Of course, this tradition of exchanging acting talents has been going on for years.
In recent decades, Indian actors with domestic renown have captivated the western minds with memorable Hollywood castings. Some of these performances have been as supporting roles, while others have been as leading characters. All the same, these Indian actors have caught the eye of western viewers with their singular charm. With the increasing popularity of foreign cinema in the English-speaking world, it is well worth taking a second look at these appearances. Here are 10 Indian actors who have captured the western imagination with memorable Hollywood roles.
Amitabh Bachchan has held an unequivocal reign over Bollywood through the course of his five-decade-long career. Affectionately known as "Big B," the 79-year-old Bollywood veteran has also earned other names such as the Shahanshah of Bollywood, which translates to "Emperor of Bollywood." Bachchan had a brief appearance in the 2013 film The Great Gatsby as the shady underworld businessman Meyer Wolfsheim. His appearance in the film is nothing short of charismatic, and he properly embodied the sense of mystery and wickedness that defines the character. Leonardo DiCaprio even praised him as an actor, calling him “astoundingly talented”.
Irrfan Khan is considered as the most well-known Indian actor in Hollywood. Although passed away prematurely in 2020 at the age of 53, he left behind a large body of work that includes many notable Hollywood roles. The trajectory of his career seems quite appropriate since he received his big break after The Warrior, a British film that saw an international release. He has appeared in a number of critically acclaimed Hollywood titles including The Namesake, Slumdog Millionaire, and The Darjeeling Limited.
Best recognized as the ferocious Guddu Bhaiyaa in the Amazon Prime series Mirzapur, Ali Fazal has carved his own identity in Hollywood cinema. He gained recognition in Bollywood through the massively successful movie 3 Idiots. Most of his performances have been in non-blockbuster Bollywood films like Fukrey and Milan Talkies. However, his boyish charm has found quite a few takers in Hollywood, with roles in Furious 7 and Death On The Nile. In 2017, he starred in Victoria & Abdul opposite Judie Dench. Most recently, he has scored a major role in the upcoming Gerard Butler-starrer Kandahar. It seems like Fazal is on his way to replacing the late Irrfan Khan as the most recognized Indian face in Hollywood.
A major star of the regional Tamil cinema, Dhanush has gained nation-wide popularity by performing in a number of Bollywood hits as well. Despite being a product of the nepotism culture of South Indian cinema, Dhanush has amassed a major fan base through his compelling film performances. He is also a talented singer, songwriter, and director, having earned nominations or awards in all these roles. He was recently scooped up by the Russo Brothers for The Gray Man, where he played the role of a world-class assassin. The Russo Brothers praised his camera presence and have even teased a solo movie for his character, as per Firstpost.
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Veteran actress Dimple Kapadia has an established reputation for taking on complex portrayals of women, going far back into her early roles. Despite taking on fewer roles in later years, she has continued to stay relevant as she continues to choose her roles with great care. Her extensive work in arthouse cinema has also led many filmmakers to craft roles specifically for her. She made her Hollywood debut with Christopher Nolan’s 2020 film Tenet, as the arms dealer Priya Singh. Her instinctive acting style fit well with the tense, thrilling tone of the film.
Aishwarya Rai began her life in the public eye as the winner of the 1994 Miss World. Often referred to as the most beautiful woman in the world, she proved to be a capable actress. She has performed in some iconic Bollywood films of the 2000s, including Mohabbatein and Devdas, which received a BAFTA nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. She performed in a number of Hollywood films during this decade, including Mistress Of Spices, The Last Legion, and The Pink Panther 2.
As a member of Bollywood's Kapoor lineage, Anil Kapoor is considered part of the so-called Bollywood royalty. Over the course of a 40-year career, he has established himself as an icon and also reinvented himself with time. Starting off as a Bollywood pretty boy, he has taken more gritty roles with time. His broad range and striking screen presence made him a good fit for Hollywood roles. The west’s first introduction to Anil Kapoor was through Slumdog Millionaire, in which he played the host of the reality show. He has also appeared in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and the action drama series 24.
Related: Best Bollywood Movies of the 2010s, Ranked
67-year-old Anupam Kher is a Bollywood staple and a prolific actor, with over 500 films to his name. Capable of slipping into his roles with effortless grace, he is often seen portraying the role of benign paternal figures. One can even note a similar trend in his Hollywood roles. His subtle, tempered performances have made him a go-to figure for many Hollywood films. Some notable English-language films featuring his performances include The Big Sick, Silver Linings Playbook, and A Family Man.
Freida Pinto became an overnight global star with the success of Slumdog Millionaire, in which she plays Jamal’s love interest Latika. Although she was born and raised in India, the success of Slumdog catapulted her to a career in the Hollywood film industry. Her immediate follow-up to that movie was the Woody Allen film You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger. Her roles have been spread across diverse film genres, from the major sci-fi film Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the art drama Knight of Cups, and the neo-western action film Blunt Force Trauma.
Priyanka Chopra is one of the few Indian actors on this list who have completely "broken through" into Hollywood. The former Miss World showcased a taste for experimental roles in Bollywood, performing in films such as What's Your Raashee? where she performs 12 distinct roles, representing the 12 horoscope signs. In 2015, she signed on to play the role of Alex Parrish in the action thriller Quantico. Her performance in the American series was critically lauded, and opened the way for many Hollywood film roles. Her performance as the antagonist in the 2017 movie Baywatch was singled out by IGN as being the best among the cast members. She is currently signed on to a number of major Hollywood productions, including the Amazon Prime series Citadel and the action film Cowboy Ninja Viking.


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