In all this hullabaloo over whose film will win the box office stakes and reach 100 crores first, Shah Rukh Khan's Raees or Hrithik Roshan's Kaabil, Bollywood appears to have forgotten that Jackie Chan's Kung Fu Yoga will also be valiantly joining the race this week. It's not really a dark horse. And I'm not saying that SRK and Hrithik need to run scared of Jackie. But Kung Fu Yoga is an Indo-China production. And its principal baddie is our tried and tested Bollywood meanie, Sonu Sood. Also, providing the eye candy in Jackie's action-adventure-comedy that releases in Hindi, English and Mandarin on Friday are Bollywood lovelies Amyra Dastur and Disha Patani. Will Hindi film aficionados who have watched and voted for Raees and Kaabil consider going for Kung Fu Yoga next? They might, it's got the necessary paisa vasool Bollywood masala.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang need not look further for a "Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai" ambassador if they wanted one.
I like Jackie Chan myself. Not any more or less than SRK and Hrithik. It was Bruce Lee who introduced the world to martial arts with Enter The Dragon in 1975. But Jackie is singularly responsible for influencing generations after that to take up or follow the fighting arts and sports with his brilliantly choreographed kung fu films. At 63 today, he's far older than SRK and Hrithik, but Sonu tells me Jackie's pulled off some spectacular fight sequences and has done all his stunts himself in Kung Fu Yoga. That has been the hallmark of Jackie's career—his passionate involvement and commitment to his craft. That apart, the veteran Chinese actor has a slapstick brand of comedy that is universally accepted and was described by Tom Hanks as "historically unprecedented" at the Oscars when Jackie was presented an honorary Academy Award in 2016 for "56 years in the film industry, making more than 200 films, and breaking so many bones."
I was introduced to Jackie by Sonu in Mumbai at the JW Marriott last week. He came down for a day, for 12 hours actually, to help his Bollywood co-stars promote their film. I went expecting to do an interview, but I barely got a moment with him. It was absolute and grand chaos. A hundred people wanted Jackie's attention at the same time. Or to take selfies with him. (The day of the autograph is over.) Shilpa Shetty, who after films seems most comfortable endorsing yoga, danced a step or two impatiently by the side. Tiger Shroff stood by respectfully like a kung fu disciple before the Shaolin Temple monk. Amyra Dastur waited to introduce her parents. Salman Khan was on his way. So was Kangana Ranaut, though I never figured out why. Jackie revelled in the attention, a bemused expression on his humorous face, the eyes twinkling mischievously behind spectacles, a red tilak on his forehead. He met everybody. Sportingly shook every hand and posed for countless selfies. And when invited to dance, he did a soft-shoe shuffle to Bollywood beats with no inhibition. I thought Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang need not look further for a "Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai" ambassador if they wanted one.
Had he heard of Bollywood's 100 Crore Club? And that a race is on between Raees and Kaabil? No, Jackie Chan hadn't. And he was cool about it.
But, coming back to Kung Fu Yoga and the box office stakes. Bollywood is a new market for Jackie. He doesn't speak or understand Hindi at all. And he seems unconcerned by that handicap. He's endearingly still struggling in his funny singsong voice and atrocious accent to make himself understood in English after 37 superhit years in Hollywood. Does he hope to be as big in Bollywood? He giggled in embarrassment and said, "I don't understand American humour, and I don't know US audiences, so I never know if my Hollywood films do well." Which was no answer at all. Jackie's a one-man industry. I think what he does is bring himself, his amazing genre of cinema to the sets, makes a film and moves on. Like a Zen master without a care in the world. I don't think he worries about the business it will do. He's already thinking of The Foreigner which he's got coming up in 2017 with Pierce Brosnan and The Mystery of the Iron Mask with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Had he heard of Bollywood's 100 Crore Club? And that a race is on between Raees and Kaabil to get there first? No, Jackie Chan hadn't. And he was cool about it.