Mumbai: Top Bollywood actresses made sure word got around that they'd auditioned for the latest Fast and Furious movie. Everyone from Deepika Padukone and Sonam Kapoor to Kangana Ranaut and Chitrangada Singh are believed to have put themselves on tape for the part that eventually went to British actress Nathalie Emmanuel of Game of Thrones. Yet, the new film (seventh in the series) will have an Indian connection after all - in the form of 26-year-old 'Fukrey' star Ali Fazal, who's heading back from Atlanta after having shot 'an extended cameo' with Vin Diesel and the rest of the cast.
"I had a great time," Ali says on the phone just moments after returning from set. "I've grown up watching these films. Which guy my age isn't excited by fast cars, drag races and hot girls?"
About the character he plays, Ali will only reveal that he's 'something of a crazy tycoon', and the scene he filmed involves all the principals - Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez - 'showing up at my garage'.
The actor can't stop stressing that 'it's only a 2 to 3 scene cameo' and even jokes that 'it could well be edited out of the finished film...these things are known to happen'. Yet he's looking forward to joining the team again in Abu Dhabi in January when he'll shoot his remaining scenes.
"I know people say this all the time, but it really did feel like a family on the set," he says of the time he spent with the team in Atlanta. "Vin Diesel is one of the nicest people I've met. He told me he's dying to come to India because his father spent a considerable amount of time here."
Ali also adds that he hit it off with Kurt Russell, the 62-year-old star of films like Escape From New York and Death Proof, who makes his first appearance in the over-2 billion dollar grossing Fast and Furious franchise. "He's literally someone I've watched on screen since I was a kid," Ali says excitedly. "He was warm and funny, and we spoke about Indian cinema over a few cigarettes."
Reportedly picked over dozens of actors from the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East who auditioned for the role, Ali reveals he had to be coaxed by talent agents Purvi Lavingia-Vats and Mohit Kukreti into putting himself on tape. "I was away in the mountains near Mussourie with my friends when they insisted that I shoot my lines," he recounts. "There was no Internet connection so I had a friend shoot the audition on an iPhone."
Ironically, he says it was this very DIY approach that may have snagged him the part. "The casting director told me they liked the way I'd improvised my audition," he explains, chuckling at the memory. "I had neither gel nor a suit in that remote cottage we were at, so I played around with the character... It wasn't written as a quirky part, but they liked how I was fixing my hair and fumbling with a cigarette while saying my lines."
As he prepares to return to India, Ali insists he doesn't want to think of this as his Hollywood debut. "I had a good time, but I did it for the experience of knowing how things work in the West." He'll be happy if other offers come his way, but for now he's grateful to the agents who got him the gig: "Purvi is just a sweetheart. She was determined to make this happen. She's been up nights on end co-ordinating with production and figuring out travel and logistics. And Mohit I went to school with so he's very close to me."
Ali says he didn't exactly jump at the offer when it came his way 'because I knew I literally had to fly out the same week if I wanted to do it, and I was busy with my other films. But Purvi made sure everything worked out comfortably.'
Once home, he'll jump right back into his Bollywood projects, which include a comedy titled 'Baat Ban Gayi', and a drama produced by Rohan Sippy titled 'Sonali Cable', both of which he plays the lead in. "That's home," he says. "But I really enjoyed this opportunity."