|CURRENT ISSUE NOVEMBER 22, 2004|
|SOCIETY & THE ARTS: CINEMA|
|Enter the Dragon |
After Jackie Chan shot part of The Myth in the ruins of Hampi, China is now shooting its first full-length movie in India
|By Rohit Parihar|
Having conquered the West, it was only a matter of time before yoga expanded eastward. With China Star, a Hong Kong production house, having almost wrapped up its first feature film in India, that is exactly what has happened.
Himalaya Singh, originally titled Star of Himalayas, stars popular actor-singer Cecilia Cheung, in a cameo, and Bollywood actor Gauri Karnik. The unit, which was in Rajasthan for a 45-day schedule, has wrapped up the film at Manali. Much of the humour in the 90-minute comedy comes from the plot: Himalaya Singh (Ronald Cheng), the Indian-born son of Chinese yogis, comes down from the Himalayas (where else?) to participate in a swayamvar in Rajasthan. The person who performs the best yoga gets to marry Beauty, played by Karnik, the daughter of the Yoga King, played by Satnam Mody. Like the title, the storyline too has changed as the director found the locations different from what he had visualised and tried to make the best use of them.
For associate producer Fanny Leung Man Yee "yoga is a hit and so is India". Indeed. Asian superstar Jackie Chan has already shot part of his film The Myth at Hampi with Mallika Sherawat, and loved every minute of it. For Karnik, a Chinese film was a curiosity. "Initially I was bewildered by the offer. People get proposals to work in French productions and I was getting a Chinese one," she says. Karnik did not understand a word of the Mandarin and Cantonese she had to spout but she managed pretty well in the end. The film has been shot extensively at Pushkar, Abaneri, Jaipur, Nawalgarh and Jodhpur at locations varying from forts to stepwells. The unit found an appreciative audience in the colourfully dressed Rajasthani crowd, which applauded every shot, even though the dialogues made no sense.
A lot of research went into the making of the movie, directed and produced by Wai Kai Fai, who worked with Johnnie To on Running on Karma last year. The movie, which chronicled the incredible contortionist skills of a yogi, also sparked Wai's keen interest in Indian culture. He decided to exploit that theme and that is how Himalaya Singh was born. In the run-up to the movie, Wai watched many Indian movies and consulted fashion and history manuals. Several films were also used as references, especially Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas.
For the 62-member crew it was a mixed experience. They invariably had upset tummies and also had a first-hand experience of the imperious behaviour of erstwhile Indian kings. Despite working out shooting schedules at palaces in advance, the crew often got instructions to readjust their plans as the maharaja had either not woken up or would be entertaining special guests in the evening. However, the royals made up for all their eccentricities by allowing longer hours of shooting on other days.
It is not clear though whether Himalaya Singh, which has been vetted by the Chinese Censorship Board, will ever be seen in Indian theatres. So far the producers have no plans to either dub the film or release it with sub-titles. Karnik, however, feels the film could work in India, given that she had no trouble laughing at the lines though she did not understand them.