Bollywood Hero originally aired as a three part miniseries on IFC back in 2009. The show starred former Saturday Night Live star Chris Kattan in the lead role, essentially playing himself. Here Kattan is tired of not being taken seriously by Hollywood producers. Kattan has grown tired of his typical comedic roles and now wants to branch out and try something different. As such, he's intrigued by and soon accepts an offer to star in a Bollywood film called Peculiar Dancing Boy set to be shot in Mumbai.
Kattan heads to India to meet up with the film's director, Monty Kapoor (Ali Fazal), a first timer who has inherited his late father's film production company and who runs it along with his sister, Priya (the beautiful Pooja Kumar). The Kapoor see casting Kattan as a chance to capitalize on the film market that lies outside of Bollywood, though they're remaining true to their established fan base by casting him alongside Lalima Lakhani (the stunningly gorgeous Neha Dhupia), the hottest actress in the Bollywood film industry.
Chris is optimistic about his new project from the get go, but soon learns that in order to make it in the Bollywood industry, he's going to have to adapt. The culture is very different than what he's used to having worked solely in the American television and film industry, and there's very definitely going to be a strong learning curve for him to deal with. If the culture shock weren't enough, there's all manner of drama on set in the form of egotistical and jealous co-workers and fellow cast members, some of whom would be more than happy to see Kattan fall from grace before he even gets his shot. Chris, on the other hand, really wants to play the hero...
Not surprisingly, a few of Kattan's SNL alum pop up in the series (Maya Rudolph hangs out with him at a bar before he heads to India) and a few other interesting guest stars - Keanue Reeves, Alanis Morissette, David Alan Grier, among others - pop up in small cameo roles but this is primarily Kattan's show. Those who know him only as Mango or from Night At The Roxbury may be surprised to see him handling material here that is both comedic and sometimes fairly dramatic as well and doing fine with both ends of the spectrum. It's obvious that this character isn't so far removed from the 'real Chris Kattan' and it does give a performer who has been typecast in dopey comedies a chance to prove that, yes, he can actually act. It's also interesting to see Kattan act alongside his actual father, Kip King, who just like his son, appears to more or less be playing himself here.
The fish out of water aspect of the story is where most of the laughs come from and the scenario does provide interesting opportunities for the milk-toast westerner to get involved in sometimes awkward and screwy situations. Priya's grandmother, who the producer insists on having around during the production, frequently talks to Kattan's character, who obviously can't understand a word she's saying, which is something the older woman has no qualms about taking full advantage of. Reeves' well played parody of himself is also a comedic highlight of the film. Kattan obviously gets most of the laughs, however, and his comedic timing does help the picture a fair bit.
Ultimately the picture doesn't really get as deep as it could. There was more that could have been done here in terms of how it approached and explored Indian culture and the various social and political aspects of that culture that make it unique, but instead we really only get a surface level look. On the flip side of that coin, the series was probably never intended to be anything more than a fun, marginally touching story about one man's journey of self discovery that comes through his immersion into another culture. On that level it works well enough, and there's plenty of entertainment value to be gleamed from the three parts that make up this whole. The musical numbers, choreographed by some of the same people who worked on Slumdog Millionaire, is well done and the songs, despite feeling odd when sung in English as they are here, can certainly get stuck in your head if you're not careful. Bollywood Hero may not be the 'be all end all' look at the Bollywood film industry nor is it all that deep, but it is fun and as such is worth checking out for those with an interest in the subject matter or those who appreciate Kattan's comedic style.
Bollywood Hero arrives on DVD in a 1.78.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that looks okay, despite leaving some room for improvement. Aside from the fact that the picture is interlaced and shows some obvious combing in spots, much of the color timing looks just a bit too hot. I didn't catch this when it aired on IFC so it's hard to say if it looked like this when it was originally broadcast, but there are scenes where the contrast looks a bit off here. This isn't a constant issue, but you probably will notice it at times. Aside from that, however, there isn't really much to complain about. There aren't any compression artifacts nor is there any obvious edge enhancement. A bit of aliasing is present here and there but it's minor. Detail levels are about average for the production values and while this isn't a perfect transfer, it's certainly watchable enough.
The only audio option on this disc is a fairly standard sounding English language Dolby Digital 5.1 Stereo track. Parts of the film that are spoken in Hindi appear with burned in English subtitles on the screen. Dialogue is easy enough to understand and follow and the levels are generally well balanced. The musical bits sound nice and punch and there are no problems to complain about in terms of hiss or distortion or unnecessary noise.
Off of the main menu screen, you can access each of the three parts of the miniseries or watch them together in feature format through a 'play all' function. Aside from that, IFC have included a few minutes worth of deleted and alternate scenes, none of which add very much to the program but which are moderately amusing in their own right. It'd have been nice to get a commentary or interview with Kattan or some of the other principal players, but that didn't happen. It would have also been nice to see the promo spots that originally aired on TV to promote the miniseries when it was originally broadcast, but that didn't happen either.
Bollywood Hero is worth seeing but it's hard to really see anyone going back to this one to watch it over and over again. The DVD from IFC/Anchor Bay/Starz looks okay and sounds decent enough but it's disappointingly light on extras. Kattan's fan base will appreciate this more than casual viewers, but there's still enough here that works and you can consider this one a solid rental.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.