• Fri. May 20th, 2022

HT Brunch Cover Story: Ryan Loves Bollywood

ByRandall B. Phelps

Mar 12, 2022

After doing a few interviews with Hollywood’s biggest stars since the pandemic began, I’ve learned a few things. First: India is an important market for Hollywood because of our numbers, as well as for YouTubers looking for “collaborations” with Indian social media stars. And two: most American stars make the effort to call you by your name.

“Hi Jamal! I hear a male voice say before the video even plays to my end.

Ryan Reynolds is touring the media to promote his latest release, The Adam Project on Netflix; because Brunch HT is a major magazine, we received much more time than other Asian publications on the list – we are the only one in India – and we were corrected almost immediately.

Hello, Ryan, I reply, as I fumble with the controls on my Zoom screen. I have to keep the chat window open to keep track of how much time I have.

Ryan smiles.

Tell us about The Adam Project and your four co-stars, I ask, trying to put a new spin on a stock issue. Of Jennifer Garner, Mark Ruffalo, Walker Scobell and Zoe Saldana, which was your favorite, which was the hardest to work with?

The 45-year-old Canadian actor, first seen by Indian audiences in the sitcom Two guys, a girl and a pizzeria, offers me a stock answer. “The Adam Project is a spectacle-driven fantasy film with an emotional punch to the heart. In the film, I meet my 12-year-old younger self, as well as my father, with whom I have an incredibly complicated relationship. But now he’s my peer…we’re usually closer to the same age. So there’s a lot of unspoken tension between us, a lot of things that need to be healed and fixed. And the whole thing is set as a backdrop by the show part, where we have to save the world by stopping time travel altogether.

Ryan says he believes [escapist cinema] is a good way to get out of your head for a second (Guy Aroch / Netflix)

“About my co-stars,” Ryan continues. “I’m afraid you won’t find the juicy gossip you’re looking for, because these are the biggest co-stars on the planet. These people have entire rooms full of trophies…”

I notice how fast Ryan talks to help me make the most of my time, so I return the favor. This is not your first OTT project: unlike box office releases, where collections are synonymous with success, how do you measure the success of a film that is released on a streaming platform?

“It’s interesting,” Ryan replies, slowing down a bit to do his introspection. “I don’t really measure success in any way from the outside unless the movie lands for people. That’s all you really care about. We currently live in an extremely complicated and difficult world and in this 24-hour news cycle of doubt, pain and fear. Movies are meant to take you away and take you somewhere else, to give you that deep breath and rest, and that’s what this movie does. I’m lucky enough to be able to make original films which are increasingly rare these days. Both free guy (2021) and The Adam Project are not based on a comic or an IP address or anything. I judge their success as I judge theatrical success. Obviously, there is a commercial matrix in a theatrical world that is hard to ignore. But you hope your film lands and resonates with people; it is usually the measuring stick by which we look at it.

Great bursts of joy

It’s incredible that you are talking about films that win over the public. Didn’t you say recently that Hollywood shamelessly imitates Bollywood? Were you referring to the song and dance dramas that we tend to air?

“What strikes me most when I think of Indian films is that there’s a kind of expression of joy like no other,” Ryan says. “When I said emulate, I meant that Hollywood films try to tap into that same expression of joy that Indian cinema has done so well for so long. Films are meant to bring us together and unite us in some way. …And there’s something quite magical about Bollywood and its ability to deliver joy in that kind of primary context. It’s an industry that we appreciate here, and rightly so, because it’s quite special…”

Ryan smiles when he talks about joy, but I’m not ready to ask him about our movies just yet. “What you call joy, some would call escape. In a developing country, cinema should be as evasive as it is entertaining… Have you ever thought of it that way?

“Yeah, absolutely,” Ryan replies. “You want some of that escape. You want this ability to fade away for a second and go somewhere else. I think it’s very, very important. Movies do it consciously. I think it is [escapist cinema] a good way to get out of your own head for a second.

An Indian film you remember? An Indian actor?

Ryan looks almost sorry. “I don’t want to embarrass myself and make mistakes,” he says. “Every Bollywood movie I’ve been lucky enough to have seen, and I’ve seen about a dozen, has always brought explosive joy. I wish we could have more of that in our culture here.

Ryan says if he were invited into the world of Bollywood he should do it in the strictest and most respectful way possible, but it’s something he would be very excited about (Guy Aroch/Netflix)

Do you think you would be a good enough dancer or singer, and do you see yourself doing a Bollywood movie one day?

“Oh my God!” exclaims Ryan. “If I was invited into the world of Bollywood, I would have to do it in the strictest and most respectful way possible, but that’s something that would excite me the most. But I also think that Bollywood is doing very fine on his own… he doesn’t need me jumping in there,” he laughs. “I’m happy to let the pros do it [the singing and dancing.]”

we are the world

Just like Bollywood, aren’t they beginning to emerge characteristics of storytelling from different parts of the world? Korean is intense and surprising, Iranian can be realistic, South American is as dramatic as it gets. As a writer yourself, what are your impressions of stories from different parts of the world?

“Oh my God,” exclaims Ryan. “It just goes to show that sometimes we forget the incredible bottomless nuance that exists between different cultures and storytelling. I love that Netflix has become a platform that can shed light on cultures in a cinematic sense that don’t have not yet been explored in different parts of the world.

Has Ryan Reynolds ever been to India, I ask, chilling.

“I haven’t done it yet,” he replies shyly. “I spent several months in Sri Lanka and would love to come to India at some point. It’s been on the list for far too long, not only for me, but also for my wife Blake and our children. After all What I know, the difference of about a few hundred kilometers in India is like a whole other world. There is so much to offer in India from the perspective of different regions. I would love to explore it all!

So if Netflix tells you that you got a great response for India’s The Adam Project, can you promise us you’ll be there before the end of this year?

“I would love that,” Ryan says. “These days, they only do everything through Zoom. It is very frustrating. I used to go places. It’s been long overdue. In our business, we like to play with cultural landscapes and that in India is richer than anywhere else on the planet!

Follow @jamalshaikh on Instagram and Twitter

From HT Brunch, March 13, 2022

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    Jamal Shaikh is National Editor – Brunch and New Media Initiatives at Hindustan Times. He is a well-known television host and magazine editor, who launched and edited the Indian editions of Men’s Health, Robb Report and Discovery Channel Magazine. He tweets and instagrams @jamalshaikh
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