For all the people that complain about how the existing LOTR movies left things out or got things wrong, you should be clamoring for a Bollywood version of the epic series. First off, they’d make twelve films, three hours apiece, and keep everything in there. Second, the music wouldn’t put everyone to sleep. Sorry, Enya, but your tunes were the Snoozerville Trolley. A.R. Rahman would blow everyone away with his Bollywood LOTR score. Plus, dance numbers. Finally, audiences would really, really cry their eyes out at the sad parts. In the current films, Boromir dying is noble, but we move on. When Denethor goes up in smoke, it’s kind of a relief. Bollywood, though, would make us cry and we’d love it.
So… how about the casting?
Amitabh Bachchan as GANDALF. Let’s go with the grand master of Bollywood, with enough gravitas to make the sun orbit *him*. When this guy yells “KOI NAHIN JAYEGA!” to the Balrog, there’s a chance the Balrog will turn around and remember that his mommy is calling him. Big B has the range, dynamics, and power needed to fuel this character to its zenith.
Shahrukh Khan as ARAGORN. King Khan is a lead actor that really knows his way around a sword, so let’s give him the big role here. He’s got massive box office appeal and for good reason – he acts with such intensity that he managed to take negative roles in films and convince audiences to cheer for him instead of the hero. We don’t need him working for Sauron, so let’s get him enrolled into the Fellowship.
Saif Ali Khan as FRODO. Look at this guy! He has just enough cute going for him to be a Hobbit, but not so much that he spoils things. When it’s time to be serious, Saif Ali can do the job. He did a great character turn in Being Cyrus that shows he’s got the chops necessary to carry the second lead that Frodo has to be. Book this guy before he gets too busy with another project!
Arshad Warsi as SAM. If the “Munna Bhai” films taught me anything, they taught me that Arshad Warsi is the perfect sidekick. This is the guy you want by your side all the way into Mordor. He can be a soft-spoken servant when he has to be, but also possesses a keen comic timing for when Sam has to be a comic foil. So drop the tension and get Arhsad into this production!
Hrithik Roshan as LEGOLAS. Look at him, he just screams “Elf!” The long, thin nose; the penetrating eyes; the pointed chin… it’s all Elvish without even trying. But a bow and arrow into this guy’s hands and let the action fly! My goodness, is anyone else getting as excited about this as I am?
Ajay Devgan as GIMLI. Ajay would be the perfect dark Dwarf to counter Hrithik’s light Elf. He can portray a very dour character when needed, but is not so serious as to be incapable of cracking a smile when needed. In the Peter Jackson films, Gimli’s reaction to the fall of his people holds back emotionally – Ajay Devgan would take us to the emotional edge and over it. He can do a proper tragic turn.
Akshay Kumar as BOROMIR, FARAMIR, and DENETHOR. Why not? Bollywood actors can do double and triple roles, and these characters never have lines in the same scene, anyway. Let’s use Akshay in all twelve movies, all right? And when it comes time for Denethor to do himself in, Akshay will be a properly tragic hero instead of an oily creepy guy that we don’t really understand.
Uday Chopra and Aamir Khan as MERRY and PIPPIN. Here are the proper clowns for our other two Hobbitses in the Fellowship. Both Chopra and Khan can smile in a way to melt ice and they have been hilarious in a number of roles. Chopra has to be one of this pair, but I could see Aamir and Saif Ali possibly switching places, if they had to. I think I’d prefer Aamir as Pippin because he can really go over the top with funny, while Saif Ail’s funny derives more from his warmth as a person.
That’s the Fellowship… now for some of the other key roles…
Sanjay Dutt as THEODEN. This one really excites me. Sanjay can be as crusty as he has to be to match Bachchan’s Gandalf chop for chop in the scenes where Gandalf brings Theoden out of his haze. He’s a solid, tough, man’s man that can run the defenses of Helm’s Deep with skill and courage as easily as he can lead the Rohirrim smack into the flank of Sauron’s army at Minas Tirith. Get him in a suit of armor and… ACTION!
Boman Irani as TOM BOMBADIL. “Wait!” I hear you say, “Tom Bombadil wasn’t in the movies!” That’s right. He wasn’t. In the Bollywood version, he is. “Oh!” I hear you say, “I see what you did there.” Boman Irani is a treat as a character actor and has a heart big enough to do Bombadil properly. The dance numbers await, and we’ll have some great fun with his scenes!
Aishwarya Rai as GALADRIEL. True, it’s a cameo role, but Aishu can dazzle and almost steal the movie with her presence. We could get her real-life husband Abishek Bachchan as Celeborn, if it wouldn’t be too distracting for the Lothlorien scenes. I think it could work. She can be ethereal and he can be down to earth, acting as a bridge between her and the world.
Naseeruddin Shah as BILBO. This guy is PERFECT for Bilbo Baggins. He’s got that proper mix of diminutive charm and elvishness that characterized Bilbo in the novels. Another great character actor, he’d be wonderful in giving a richness and depth to the role of the Hobbit that went there and back again.
Om Puri as GHAN-BURI-GHAN. Again, we get to cast roles that were cut for the Peter Jackson trilogy. In a dodecalogy, we got room for everyone. So let’s get this guy and some extras in Woses makeup and start shooting in a forest. This solid-looking guy should not go to waste. If we don’t use him in this role, he can be a model for Treebeard…
Paul Blackthorne as ELROND. I know, he’s not Indian. He’s British. That’s all right: he speaks Hindi. He was great in Lagaan, and he’s got the strong, powerful presence sufficient to be one of the last great Elf-Lords. His stature doesn’t hurt, either. This guy towers when he’s next to Indian actors.
John Abraham as SARUMAN. Yes, he’s young, but that’s why we have makeup departments. Abraham is excellent not only as a villain, but as a complicated, layered villain that makes us think about his character. Since he’s going to be needed not only for the action against Rohan but for the final battle in the Shire, we need an actor with proper staying power to makes us possibly sympathetic to Saruman – just. Saruman’s character has to be able to tempt us to want to join him, and Abraham can do that with his portrayals.
Kareena Kapoor as EOWYN. Kareena Kapoor is tough as nails and if there’s anyone I want to see whack the Lord of the Nazgul, it would be her. She was great as a warrior-princess in Asoka, so I know she can do a proper turn as the warrior-princess of this series. She’s also done a duet with Akshay Kumar before, so they’ll be great in the dance scene from Faramir’s wedding to her.
There are loads of other minor characters from the books, but it’s not like there’s a shortage of actors and actresses in India. This list should get us started. There would also be a possibility to use CGI for some characters, but there’s also a possibility that live actors could do just as well. Naseeruddin Shah, in particular, would be interesting as Gollum, as an inverse to his Bilbo character with notes that ring across both personages in his portrayal. That, in and of itself, could make Gollum more sympathetic and developed to the audience. Think of the different film we’d have if there was a Gollum that reminded us, in a way, of Bilbo instead of being an otherworldly thing that repulses us because it is obviously not of our world.
So what about the dance numbers? Any time there is a party, there’s a dance. Any time there’s a romantic notion, there’s a dance. Any time there’s a wedding, dance. Whenever we need to rally the troops for a big push, dance. When someone thinks of home, you better believe he’ll dream up a big item number dance. The dances would serve to raise our spirits and provide a stark contrast to the struggles at hand. Believe me, they’ll make the emotional impact all the more real. Remember, we’re tapping A.R. Rahman for the music in this series, so let’s put all his talents to excellent use.
Twelve movies, nothing left out, and a stellar cast: I think we got some big-screen magic, here. Let’s do lunch, what do you say?