The line between reality and fiction is blurred in the new Independent Film Channel miniseries Bollywood Hero.
Star Chris Kattan says the fuzziness is similar to Curb Your Enthusiasm or Seinfeld, shows that walked a staggered line between the real and the made up.
Kattan plays a slightly fictionalized version of himself, who's grown tired of playing the kind of goofy roles that made him such a hit on Saturday Night Live. (Who could forget Mango?) He longs to be the kind of heroic film lead who gets the girl. So Kattan agrees to take passage to India, where he'll star in the film Peculiar Dancing Boy.
"The part about the heroic film lead is not true. I did want to be Indiana Jones when I was young. But now I know that's not the kind of roles I am going to be offered," Kattan says in a telephone interview.
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The sorta-fictional Kattan is cast in the Bollywood film because the director can't find any other American actor willing to come to India. Bollywood Hero's real executive producers, Belisa Balaban and Ted Skillman, who came up with the miniseries concept, say Kattan was the perfect pick for their 10-week shoot in Mumbai.
"We were introduced to Chris after he had just got back from a trip to India. He was excited about the prospect of going back. The fact Chris was game was a big deal," Skillman says.
Balaban adds that Kattan has the qualities of optimism and sweetness the character needed for the film to work.
Helping create the blurred reality are Maya Rudolph, Kattan's good friend who plays his good friend, and Keanu Reeves, who makes a cameo appearance to poke fun at his own heroic movie image.
And then there is The Groundlings veteran Kip King, Kattan's real-life father, who plays his father in Bollywood Hero. The father-and-son comics appeared at an event for the L.A.-based improvisational comedy troupe, but this is their first film together.
"I used to watch him performing with The Groundlings, and I wanted to be up there. I saw the attention he got, the quick response from the audience. He made lots of people laugh. He could make girls laugh," Kattan says.
And speaking of women, Kattan co-stars with Pooja Kumar, a former Miss India USA, and Neha Dhupia, Miss India 2002. Kattan says the cast was so good looking he ended up feeling like Hume Cronyn.
Both the real Kattan and his film version had to deal with the physical demands of elaborate dance numbers choreographed by Longinus Fernandes, the man behind the Jai Ho dance in Slumdog Millionaire.
Kattan was taught a few dance steps before filming started. He doesn't consider himself a great dancer but eventually became comfortable with the moves.
The dancing, singing and tender moments make the miniseries a very different role for Kattan. He eventually would like to follow in the acting steps of other SNL alumni such as Will Ferrell and Bill Murray, who do dramatic roles that still allow them to showcase their comedic skills. He points to Murray's Lost in Translation as an example.
That will have to wait. Kattan has been cast in the new ABC sitcom The Middle playing a car salesman. It was supposed to be a guest-star spot in the first episode, but Kattan was made a cast regular. The series debuts in late September.