TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “Bollywood Hero”

With all due respect to the star of “Corky Romano,” it would in no way surprise me if you were to react with shock at the news that Chris Kattan is going to be doing a rather intelligent comedy miniseries for the Independent Film Channel. And to be fair, my impressions of “Bollywood Hero,” the miniseries in questions, are based solely on a trailer that was made solely for promotional purposes and that they haven’t actually started filming “Bollywood Hero” yet. But from that trailer and the description of the concept, I have to admit that I’m really, really looking forward to seeing the final product…eventually.

The concept, since I’m sure you now wondering about it, is thus: fed up with Hollywood’s inability to recognize that he is leading-man material, Chris Kattan decides to prove his acting mettle in Bollywood, India. The problem, however, is that he really has no idea what he’s getting into.

“It’s a fish-out-of-water show,” says Kattan. “It’s human-based. It’s grounded. It’s about real people, but it’s obviously going to be funny. It’s not a slapstick sitcom kind of a show, and that’s what appealed to me the most. It was…it’s like a ‘Curb (Your Enthusiasm),’ I would say. It has a great story, as opposed to a lot of television now. It has strong cast and situations, but this has a strong cast as well as a great storyline to it. And IFC has been great about letting it be protected. A lot of network television…nothing against them, obviously, but there’s always a lot of voices that don’t necessarily protect what we want to do, how we want to have fun and have a great time.”

So what made Kattan decide that he was up to the challenge of playing an exaggerated version of himself? Actually, the idea is one that’s appealed to him for quite some time.

“My favorite kind of comedy was like Albert Brooks…you know, the old Albert, like ‘Lost in America’ or ‘Modern Romance’…or Charles Grodin in ‘Heartbreak Kid.’ I identify with that kind of humor that’s real. It’s narcissistic a little bit, but it’s entertaining and lovable. And I think not doing characters on ‘SNL’ as often and doing more other roles that take go back to humanity and stuff, you feel confident to do something like this. That always appealed to me, that kind of aspect of comedy not being surface and funny and jokey, but…well, it will still be funny, and we have great writers, and everybody is a funny person. Everybody around there will ultimately be funny. But it’s coming from a grounded place. There will be a lot of exploring falling in love, and I want to be an action star. I want to be a romantic person. I believe I can be that person. Not in real life. I already understand that’s probably not going to happen, but I have that sense of humor of knowing that. And having that kind of an ego, thinking I have that ego as a character and going to Bollywood and making that happen, I end up becoming a hero in my life as a person, as a character.”

Make no mistake: this is a tribute to Bollywood rather than an attempt to mock its traditions. There may be humor from Kattan’s lack of comprehension to their methods and the differences between what he’s used to from Hollywood, but it’s definitely not humor derived from meanness.

“It’s not like we’re choosing a country and saying, ‘Hey, let’s go over there. That would be funny, and we can make fun of them and come back,’ like a ‘Jackass’ or ‘Borat’ or something,” says Kattan. “It’s a human-behavior comedy. It’s about human beings, and it falls back on that. So again, it will be funny, but it’s going to be real. Like, ‘Lost in Translation’ had that element of going to another country. And some of it was sad, but it was real, but it was ultimately funny.

“It’s also about the love of movies,” he continued. “Really appreciating great movies, like the old MGM musicals and that magic that isn’t quite there anymore. It’s kind of turned into a little bit more ‘Gossip Girl’ and ‘Twilight.’ There’s no more ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ or ‘On the Town’ or that kind of element. And Bollywood movies have that element.”

A final word, however: if you’re looking for Kattan to reprise any of his old “SNL” characters, you’d be advised not to hold your breath.

“I’m not going to, like, all of a sudden, ‘Hello, I’m Mango,’ like, ‘Hey, what are you doing here in India?’ Or eat an apple. ‘Get out of here. This is a restaurant.’ ‘What? I’m a monkey.’ Well, the monkey character never spoke. If a character ever is brought up, then it will be me talking about it, or if it makes sense in the scene, then I’ll do it. But it has to make sense, you know?”

“Bollywood Hero” premieres on IFC this summer, with the exact date still TBD.


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