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Jiah Khan may have been pushed over the edge because of her tumultuous love life but her sluggish career after a big start is said to have caused her a lot of anguish. Why do foreign starlets find it difficult to break into Bollywood?
Bollywood loves all things phoren: locations, collaborations, and audiences. But there is one import it has failed to embrace - heroines. Aspirants from abroad have never had it easy in the Indian film industry. For one Katrina Kaif, who has made it to the top 10, there are many who have ended up as one-film wonders. Look at how many of them failed to find a foothold here - Arab Brazilian model Bruna Abdullah, Swedish-Iranian model and dancer Maryam Zakaria, half-Czech half-Pakistani American fashion model and actress Nargis Fakhri, Uruguayan-Mexican actress and model Barbara Mori, Brazilian model Giselle Monteiro, British-born Amy Jackson and Indian Brazilian model Nathalia Kaur.
Half-Sri Lankan half-Malaysian beauty Jacqueline Fernandez has bagged some A-list films but most others have nothing to their credit but item songs. Giselle Monterio, who made her debut in Love Aaj Kal, now divides her time between Italy and India, mostly focussing on modelling. Says Mahesh Bhatt: "About 99. 9 per cent of young girls who come to me wanting make a career in Bollywood do not have the basic requirements to make it to the screen. The problem is that many of them suffer from this delusion that they are God's gift to mankind. Even before they have taken the first step they want to see themselves on top of the heap. "
It is important in Bollywood to be backed by a big godfather. Though Katrina Kaif was introduced by Kaizad Gustad in Boom her career took off only after Salman Khan took an interest in her. Says film critic Chaitanya Padukone: "A combination of talent, wow looks and the backing of a godfather or a top production banner can get these actresses a good break. But after that she needs sustaining star power. "
But actor Anupam Kher, who also runs an acting school, disagrees with the godfather theory. "I don't think that is true one cannot make it in Bollywood without a godfather. If that was the case Shah Rukh Khan and Anupam Kher would not have made it. Unfortunately, success and failure are magnified by the media and if there is no family to back you it can really hurt. "
Mahesh Bhatt maintains that foreign aspirants cannot stomach criticism. "They choose to live in hope till their dreams reach a dead end, " he says. Bhatt says that he had to replace Jiah Khan with Dia Mirza in Tumsa Nahin Dekha because Khan was undependable. In her career spanning seven years, Jiah only managed to land three films - Nishabd, Ghajini and Housefull.
She returned to London for a while but the rumours of her marriage were so strong that she had to come back to India. She started meeting producers for work but failed to impress them. Her mother reportedly told the police. "She (Jiah) was fed up with the struggle ...she was besotted with Bollywood, but Bollywood had nothing to offer her. "
Says actor, singer and VJ Sophie Chaudhary, also a British national: "It's extremely difficult for girls who come from abroad to make it big. The mentality there is very different, very upfront, transparent. It's not easy to understand how things work here, how to become part of camps, learn the tricks of the trade. Indian girls come from this fabric so they understand how things function. Yet it's tough for them too. You need to have family support, the right people around you and you need to be realistic about your goals. "
So starry-eyed are many of these aspirants that they refuse to consider other options like television. "I'm blessed to be a singer and a former VJ. I travel all over the world doing gigs and though I would love to do more films and am very passionate about acting, I'm not dependent just on films. For girls who only want to do films, that too lead roles, it's not easy, " says Chaudhary.
It was in the '80s that foreign talent first started walking into Bollywood. Richa Sharma and Neeta Puri were the early entrants. "Dev Anand actually popularised the trend. After he separated from Zeenat Aman he started casting new faces and in the '80s and '90s cast a lot of actresses like Anita Ayub, Fatima Sheikh and Heena Kaushik were roped in for his films. None of them made a mark at the box office. "
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