Bad Boy Made Good - Gulshan Grover
He is branded as the Bad Boy of Bollywood. The screen character who filmgoers like to hate. Yet if you meet the Star in real life, he is one of the nicest guys around with a big heart, a crazy sense of humour and international profile which most screen idols would give their career for. HMB caught up with the man himself, Gulshan Grover, at the London International Film Festival.
What is fascinating about Gulshan is that loves life, his work and being a screen idol. He knows how to play the part and he is not shy about wanting the publicity. He knows how the film marketing machinery works and will go out of his way to push his films to get exposure. He works very hard for the cause and is very loyal to people who support him. Are these the characteristics of a Bad Man?
A veteran of over 400 films, Gulshan has been a pioneer of pushing the Bollywood profile into the international arena. Knocking on the doors of Hollywood, he got his first break on the film set of the second Jungle Book in 1996 where he also played a villain. Playing ‘the bad man' is my foray. I wanted my first role in Hollywood to be something that everyone remembers... so it had to be something that I was expert at — 'the bad man' he recalled to the Times of India.
Since then he has made inroads for others to follow. In recent times, major stars like Anil Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai have made their mark. Slumdog Millionaire perhaps put the rubber stamp on the deal as Indian artists in Bollywood are no longer an exception. Gulshan’s son Sanjay works for MGM Studios and is one of the new young architects of linking the two great film industries.
Gulshan himself admits that he feels proud that India artists now have respect worldwide. Even Bollywood now earns the respect it deserves, he acknowledges. This is of course also due to the strong south Asian communities who now reside in all corners of the globe. India and Indians are proud of their heritage and where they come from, explains Gulshan.
The journey to success has not been an easy one. Gulshan rose from poverty and went through many hardships. Like so many others, he too can tell you his harsh upbringing, but he is adamant that his strong spiritual connection guides him through the dark times. He is always grateful to the greater powers. Nevertheless, he does not necessarily think that using film as a platform to educate about religion necessarily works. ‘People want to watch films to feel good, to escape their daily drudgery. You can use religion to illustrate a person’s character or how society works as part of the plot, but religion as an entity to be used in film can only detract audiences’ he explains. The film genre brings people of all backgrounds together by way of expressing emotions on screen. This in itself can do a lot of good.
Gulshan makes regular trips to London as he is very well known in the UK and it is a stopover to trips far beyond. His latest film Beeba Boys is from the controversial director Deepa Mehta who elicits strong emotions with her subject matter. Her previous work was the elements trilogy Fire (1996), Earth (1998) and Water (2005) which won critical acclaim as well as undue attention from extremist groups. The trend continued with Midnights Children (2012) where she collaborated on the screenplay with Salman Rushdie. Gulshan plays a mafia boss in Beeba Boys which profiles the life of Indo-Canadian criminal Bindy Johal.
Gulshan has a good relationship with the press and keeps in constant touch with the Indian Press in the UK. The Indian Journalists Association (IJA), as part of the annual lunch, invited him as their key speaker. IJA’s Chair Aditi Khanna is urging a stronger link between artists and the India press. This can only help gaining access to the mainstream institutions likes the British Film Institute and BAFTA.
Via his trip to London, Gulshan made a stopover to Oslo, where he was being honoured by the Prime Minister of Norway Orna Solberg for contribution to global cinema. He has won other such accolades in other world cities including London and Los Angeles where his celebrity friends include Steven Segal and Goldie Hawn. And of course, no trip to London would be complete without visiting his friend Prince Charles. Gulshan met up with him at the Ayrshire Stately Home, Dumfries House. Gulshan is hoping to actually film at the Royal location with a spectacular song and dance routine.
‘It was an honour to be invited to Dumfries House’ said Gulshan the Daily Mail. ‘I was really amazed at the royal estate in Dumfries and requested him to make it available for a Bollywood film. It is a perfect setting, I feel.’
So where next? Gulshan has various projects on the go and another trip to London or another award in another European city is perhaps already waiting. The Bad Boy brand will continue, all for the greater good.