Trying to cast different actors from different eras in the same hypothetical film might just break my brain. In self defense then, I think I'll have to stick with one era. While the early 2000s seems to have been the decade for sweeping historical epics (Lagaan, Devdas, Umrao Jaan, Asoka), the Bollywood aesthetic and actors I enjoy the most are all found about 25-30 years earlier. So, let's offer some straight up Masala to Queen Cleopatra and see how she likes it.
The challenge: Well, since you are playing one of the most high-profile woman in history, you probably already have an idea of what you have to do. Problem is, so does everyone else. You must be simultaneously seductive, persuasive, clever . . . and be able to look even more beautiful when you are angry than when you are happy.
She was often accused of trading on her looks, but that's a common insult applied to many unbelievably beautiful women in the film business. (And probably Cleopatra, too!) Whatever paper-thin roles she might have done, she also proved (like in the above scene from Satyam Shivam Sundaram), that she could hold in her own in a scene where she had to stand up to the hero, and Shashi Kapoor's (albeit dubious) hero at that.
Runners up: Rekha
2. Mark Antony
The challenge: Your nobility has to match your ambition. We must always feel that though you have a burning desire to, umm, rule . . . you want it because you believe you are the best person to be king. You are charismatic, and you kind of know it (maybe a little too well). You need to portray a believable struggle between romantic feelings and personal goals.
Perhaps he doesn't have the Shakespearean/dramatic chops of say Naseerudin Shah or the aching sensitivity of Shashi Kapoor. But hey, he's got the jawline. Which I should have perhaps mentioned counts for extra points when it comes to Antony. (If it were truly up to me, I would say that Shashi could much better manage the snappy dialogue. But he just doesn't have the "look," nor do I see him as a world conquering type.)
Runner up: Vinod Khanna
3. Julius Caesar
The challenge: You are above all a man of wisdom and experience. A man who has been through war. You know when a plan is feasible, and when it is not. You are a strange mixture of civilization and barbarism. You're also ready to stop trying so hard and settle down. That is until a woman clouds your vision.
Runner up: None
Bonus round: Octavian
The challenge: Most of the time you should be petty without showing much emotion. Be more than a little self absorbed and odd. When you have bided your time, you will surprise people who have disliked you with the depth of your ambition and self-preservation in a tight spot. Talk about loyalty, but expect people to fold because you are holding all the cards. Be extraordinarily fond of exhibitionist monologues that achieve your ends.
|Photo courtesy of this blog.|
OK, so I didn't follow my own rules laid out above. But, he'd be perfect, right?
Till next time!
*I'm hardly the first to do a post dedicated to recasting a Hollywood movie in Bollywood. Thanks for the inspiration Old is Gold and others!