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Having a party...

With six Hollywood productions now and one more on its way, Kal Penn of Indian parentage is now ready to woo Indian cinemagoers with Where's the Party Yaar! RANA SIDDIQUI speaks to him.



Kal Penn

YOU MAY safely bracket him as an `India shining' factor in Hollywood. Kal Penn, the New Jersey bred actor of Gujarati lineage,is making waves there.

In "early 20s" and six Hollywood films under his belt already, he still has his shoulders firm on his head, thankfully. "I am of not of the status of Brad Pitt but I am not unknown either," he softly puts it in. In New Delhi this past week to promote the film, Where Is The Party Yaar? which features him as an Americanised Indian that presents an issue of the alienation of `just entered" Indians who are considered unwelcome among Americans and Indians settled in that country, he talks about how is it to be in Hollywood. "It wasn't easy. But my strong background in films and television helped me. I did a lot of English theatre including comedy," says Penn. Though he graduated from Freehold Regional High School District's Performing Arts High School but it was his admission in the prestigious Film and Television Department at the University of California, Los Angeles, that placed him several notches higher than his contemporaries.

An Indian in Hollywood but, still has to suffer from "stereotypical roles" that they are offered. Reveals Penn, "though I worked in Love Don't Cost a Thing, an urban re-make of the `80s hit comedy Cant' Buy Me Love and Malibu's Most Wanted (both by Warner Brothers), but I wasn't actually happy with them. They wanted that typical thick-accented, lampoonish character, which I played. First, it is difficult to make entry and then also, you have to be accepted by the mainstream films."


And, sitting at Uppal's Orchid on the Mehrauli-Gurgaon road alongside the crew of debutant director Benny Mathews' Where's the Party Yaar?, he gives the reasons too. "There is still a lot of racism in the U.S. Especially after 9/11, racism has skyrocketed. I don't understand why they think so high of themselves. They are not educated, but just literate. They have no knowledge of what is happening in the world. They just don't read, they don't travel. They just rush for entertainment, keep switching on TV channels. You can make out through this example; I went to visit an American friend of mine. He said, `I am feeling so bored. Nothing is coming on television.' I asked him to read Arundhati Roy's `God of Small Things', "I don't read, I can't'. And this is the general scene over there. And may be because of their disinterest in such fields, Indians are excelling in all domains there," Penn minces no words.

And, if you think that Indian films are doing great there, you are grossly mistaken, he says. "Almost nobody watches Indian films there. But ever since films like Bend it Like Beckham, Elizabeth and Monsoon Wedding have drawn some people's attention for they had some English-based stories. Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham was the first film ever that made it to the U.S.' top 20 films charts, the fact that even the U.S. refused to believe and publish it. But Canada put that in print," Penn states.

Some of Penn's ire seem to melt down when you mention "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle", another of Penn's forthcoming film. "Out of the lot I loved only this film for it is giving me a racy, intelligent and challenging script to work on. It is a film on student exchange between nations, two Asians drive in New Jersey looking for a White Castle hamburger stand. I am sure people will like it because they too were fed up with same white cast with same computer techniques," he declares.

Though on one side, films like Mississippi Masala had a "very empowering effect" on him, he would "love to work" in films like Mr. and Mrs. Iyer and Bombay Boys. "I came to India three years ago and just loved my country. You know I can speak Gujaratibut broken Hindi" and he burst into child-like laughter that makes you admire even his incapacity. After all, his genes are from your country!

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