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Tolly-ho!

Ready for release: Claudia Ciesla

Imported from: Germany

Claim to fame: Posed nude for a German magazine and underwent an examination to prove that her breasts were for real. Acted in Karma, a Hindi film directed by Shahjahan, and a Punjabi film called Ki Jana Pardesh; both unreleased. Vital stats: Height 5ft 9 inches, bust 38, waist 26 and hips 40.

How Tolly happened: Sumit Dutta, the co-producer of 10:10, is a friend of Shahjahan and wanted to cast Claudia for a cameo in the film. She plays a journalist who comes to India to research a story. Claudia has also crooned the title track of the film directed by Arin Paul. She is back in Calcutta campaigning for 10:10, which releases on Friday.

Claudiaspeak: I got the offer from the producer and liked the idea and the synopsis of the 10:10 script. We were talking and discussing a lot and finally decided to do this film. And I was told the Bengali kitchen is the best in India, which was also a big motivation for me! Plus, I have enjoyed shooting in Calcutta. It’s been a great learning experience.

On the floors: Emma Brown Garrett

Imported from: Australia

Claim to fame: A Bombay Dyeing commercial with the prince of Indian cricket, Yuvraj Singh. Sydney-born Emma has been a resident of Bandra in Mumbai for 11 months now. Trained in Bollywood dance, she is an Om Shanti Om fan and is keen on doing Hindi films. Has no qualms about doing item numbers.

How Tolly happened: She auditioned for and bagged Shukno Lanka in Mumbai. Was selected for the role of Isabella, an actress-turned-director in the film where Mithun plays a junior artiste!

Emmaspeak: It’s my dream to work in Bollywood. I have trained in the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Australia where the likes of Mel Gibson and Cate Blanchett had trained. I have watched some of Satyajit Ray’s films and also Mithun Chakraborty’s Dance Dance. It’s great to be working with him and shooting in Calcutta is good fun.

In queue: Vida Samadzai & Cleo Issac

Arin Paul is gunning for both these girls for his next film Mixed Moshla. Vida’s claim to fame is being “the first Afghan woman to participate in and win a beauty contest”. She braved quite a storm over the red bikini she flaunted for the contest. Vida is now based in Pakistan.

Cleo Issac has shifted from London to Mumbai with an eye on Bollywood. The supermodel-turned-actress got a bit role as a bar dancer in the Ajay Devgan-Bipasha Basu-starrer Apaharan, played Priyanshu Chatterjee’s girl in the forgettable Woh and is now being eyed to spice up Arin’s Mixed Moshla.

AGAINST

Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury (director of Anuranan): I don’t think gimmicks work

People are more interested in an emotional story. Can Emma Brown ever match up to Mithun and Sabyasachi’s (Chakraborty) popularity (in Shukno Lanka)? I think we should have foreigners only if the script demands them. For instance, Bob Wright’s role in Mrigaya. He blended so well with the script. Even I had a foreigner in Anuranan, Laura Price, who played Raima’s friend in the film. It could have been played by anyone but I wanted her to be a foreigner who bonds so well with Raima’s character.

Riingo (director of Love): People will buy tickets for Mithun not Emma

I have faced criticism from various corners that my films have Hollywood influences. Harada (Haranath Chakraborty) and Swapanda’s (Saha) films work because they are very Bengali in nature. I don’t know if people would accept a foreigner in their films. I’m not too sure how much these imports act as an add-on to Bangla films. I don’t think it really works. I don’t think people would watch Shukno Lanka for Emma Brown. They would buy tickets for Mithun. Yes, if tomorrow Tom Cruise acts in a Bangla film I would definitely buy a ticket and watch the film for him!

Basab Mullik (cinematographer of 10:10): We had expected the hype to be around Soumitrada not Claudia

This is the first time that Soumitrada (Chatterjee) played a don and he is the central character of 10:10. Soumitrada’s character has a very different look and make-up too. Despite that Claudia walked away with all the publicity. For our film we had to have a foreigner in the role of a journalist; it could have been anyone else. But nobody could have essayed Soumitrada’s character better, not even Dustin Hoffman! Claudia’s presence is not going to change Bangla cinema. Nobody knows who she is. She is not even a celebrity but the audience might take her as a variety in the film. But we had expected to create the hype around Soumitrada and not Claudia.

(Kanchan Mullick co-actor of Claudia in 10:10): Claudia’s presence doesn’t matter

If the hype is around foreigners working in Bangla films, then we’ve so many actors from Bangladesh working in our films, they are never hyped! There was a foreigner’s role in 10:10. But it could have been played by anyone. I don’t think Claudia’s presence will matter. She won’t be able to bring even five people to the theatres because nobody in the suburbs knows her.

FOR

Arin Paul (director of 10:10): We need to hype our films

The moment there’s a foreigner in a film it gives a novelty to the script. We make regional films and we need to hype our films. I accept that anybody could have played her part but I was given the option of Claudia and I grabbed the opportunity. Besides I am happy with the kind of publicity my film has got, all thanks to her!

Plus, Claudia is cost-effective in the sense that she has done two films which have not yet released; she is not a star yet. It wasn’t difficult getting her. The added advantage was that she can act and I didn’t have to spend too much time on her explaining the script.

Claudia made an effort to mingle with the cast and crew. She even touched Soumitrada’s feet on the first day of the shoot! But I have annoyed a lot of my local stars. Some were not okay with the hype Claudia generated. Plus, there were other problems, like Claudia took time to adjust to the weather and the food here.

Ajay Jhunjhunwala (producer of 10:10): Claudia is a trendsetter

Our main intention was to promote the film abroad. We have already sold the video and satellite rights in Germany. 10:10 is very popular in Germany due to Claudia. And 10:10 generated the buzz due to her. Why not? She is a trendsetter! A German model acting in a Bong film is new and it became instant news. Anybody could have done her role but wouldn’t have got the accent and make-up right.

But getting foreigners to act in a Bengali film is very expensive. The budget of the film is Rs 1 crore and we have shelled out an extra amount just for Claudia. She shot in Calcutta for a month and now she’s here for 20 days to promote the film. She is here with her agent, so we have spent on eight to-and-fro air tickets already. Plus, she is staying at The Park. All that is not cost-effective. No aspiring Tolly actress would have cost us so much.

Indranil Chakraborty (COO of Mumbai Mantra, producer of Shukno Lanka): Just like the foreigner in Rang De Basanti...

Emma’s character fitted the bill, that’s why we cast her. The script was written in a way that we had to have a foreigner. Just like the foreigner in Rang De Basanti (Alice Patten).

Emma plays a key role in the film. She is Isabella who comes to India with a certain objective and that changes the course of the film. Besides, why are we debating the presence of a foreigner in a Bengali film? Isn’t it a global village that we are living in? But I also feel that Emma Brown’s presence in the film is not going to increase the saleability of Shukno Lanka. She’s not Julia Roberts! I think Mithunda’s and Sabyasachi’s presence is going to matter a lot more than Emma’s.

Gaurav Pandey (director of Shukno Lanka): New cinema with globalised stories

I don’t understand the whole issue with a foreign cast. I have cast Emma because the film starts in Berlin and has a foreign angle to it. Besides, it’s the director’s prerogative to cast whoever fits the role. If I had to cast an actress from Ethiopia, I would have. I hope my film brings a new look and fresh appeal to Tollywood. The presence of foreigners in Bengali film assures the emergence of new cinema which tells globalised stories.

Mahesh Aney (cinematographer of Shukno Lanka): Emma has no inhibitions

It’s nice working with her. Her reactions are very different from our actors because her sensibilities are different from ours. She has no inhibitions. Her acting is fresh, which will work in favour of the film.

50:50

Pauli Dam (film and TV actress): Foreigners lend a spark but…

A new director would like to cash in on a foreign import. People would at least talk about the film and foreigners do lend a spark to Bengali films. But at the end of the day, it’s the content that matters. I won’t mind being part of a film with a foreigner because I am not insecure. Besides, I am capable of doing something which a foreigner may not be capable of. I can connect with my audience, which is difficult for a foreigner.

Ananya Chatterjee (film and TV actress): Trial-and-error phase...

I don’t think foreign imports deny work to Tollywood actresses. It’s the director’s prerogative to cast who he wants. He may cast somebody from Timbucktoo. I think Bangla cinema is going through a trial-and-error phase and that’s why foreigners are being cast. If they work, good.

Mainak Bhaumik (director of Aamra): A global perspective...

If the foreigner’s role is justified then I don’t have a problem. I mean it’s always nice to offer something new to the audience. We can’t afford renowned Hollywood names in Bangla films but having a foreigner, even a nobody, gives the film a global perspective.

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