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CONVERSATION

‘Hollywood needs Bollywood more '

In a quick chat with RANJAN DAS GUPTA, Hollywood star John Travolta, who was in Mumbai recently, talks about his growth as an actor and the links between Hollywood and Indian films.

Photo: AP

“I am astonished to learn that India's official entry for the Oscars this year, ‘Peepli Live', was inspired by ‘Mad City', my best film as an actor. Please convey my heartfelt compliments to director, Joydeep Ghosh for his excellent sense of cinema.” John Travolta expresses pleasant surprise while speaking on the phone from Mumbai.

The demi god of modern dance and a well known actor, John Travolta was in Mumbai recently to attend an award function.  He was charmed by India and the way he was received. Though in a hurry to leave, he made time for a quick interview.

“Costa Gavras is not the typical Hollywood director who delivers mindless entertainment just for the sake of the box office. His critically acclaimed ‘Mad City' was a social protest against urban self-orientation, lack of care and affection for the underprivileged as well as the unnecessary interference of the electronic media into matters they don't have any intention of solving.  The media can really be atrocious at times.”  Travolta speaks with conviction.  

Working with an icon

He adds, “I really was nervous about facing that icon of method acting Dustin Hoffman in ‘Mad City'.  To my utter surprise, I found him a very cooperative actor who didn't believe in dominating his co-stars.  Rather, he discussed many important moments and even camera angles with me before shooting.”

He still remembers “Lagaan”, India's entry for the Oscars about eight years ago, as a well-made film.  He was a member of the Oscar Jury Committee that year. Asked to comment on “Slumdog Millionaire” winning at the Oscars, he is silent for a while. Then, “‘Slumdog Millionaire' was not a classic. But there was an essence of reality — the poverty and slums of Mumbai — which the Western audience and judges found touching and well portrayed.”

His dances in “Grease” and “Saturday Night Fever” had an electrifying effect on the audience but he matured as an actor in films like “Broken Arrow”, “Pulp Fiction” and “The General's Daughter”.  Asked about the last named film, Travolta answers excitedly, “Do you remember the title song, Dori Cila Cila in a child's voice with the octopad playing in the background?  It gave tremendous effect to this thriller with an army backdrop.   As an army officer in search of the higher ranking officials who committed the crime and involvement of the general's daughter who gets murdered, I received ample scope to underplay.” 

About “Pulp Fiction”, John Travolta confesses, “It was a film with solid substance and I adopted a special method of acting. As I delivered my dialogues, I opted for a style, which spontaneously evoked reactions from co-stars.”

India connections

Why is Hollywood leaning so much towards India?  Travolta answers, “Hollywood needs Bollywood more now than vice versa. The former is discovering lot of hidden potential in India, which should not be underestimated in talent. Besides, due to the recession, Hollywood faces a severe financial crisis.  So there is the possibility of finance coming from India.”

Wasn't his character in “The Thin Red Line” too insignificant? “No,” denies Travolta, “In those three scenes as a navy commodore, I was able to depict the turbulence in the minds and the hardships my fellow soldiers were undergoing due to World War II.  You know, I always emphasise my expressions as my body language has already been used in abundance.”

Does he consider himself the last word in Western dancing?  “Certainly not,” he says emphatically.  “I am a modern dancer. Remember Rock Hudson twisting with Gina Lollobrigida in ‘Come September' or Christopher Plummer performing the tango with Julie Andrews in ‘Sound Of Music'?  A connoisseur will remember those sequences; not my ‘Saturday Night Fever'.”

Filmography

* Saturday Night Fever * Grease
* Staying Alive
* Pulp Fiction
* Mad City
* Face/Off
* Primary Colours
* The General's Daughter
* The Thin Red Line
* Wild Hogs
* Hairspray
* Bolt
* The Taking of Pelham 123
* From Paris With Love

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