India's New Partnership: Bollywood and Hip-Hop

Is Bollywood ready for Snoop Dogg?

NEW DELHI - The rapper once dubbed "America's Most Loveable Pimp" by Rolling Stone makes his debut in India this summer, with a guest appearance on the title track of a highly anticipated Bollywood movie, "Singh Is Kinng." The movie is set to open in August, but the title song is already in heavy rotation on some radio stations in India.

A fusion of hip-hop and bhangra with a simple chorus ("Singh is Kinng, Singh is Kinng, Singh is Kinng") it features Snoop Dogg giving "what up to all the ladies hanging out in Mumbai" and rapping about "Ferraris, Bugattis and Maseratis."

Snoop Dogg wears a Sikh turban and an ornate long coat called a sherwani in a video of the title song, which was shot this year in Chicago. Geffen Records owns the distribution rights to the song in the United States and Canada and may release it later this year as part of a compilation.

"I really dig how much music is infused with the movies" in Bollywood, Snoop Dogg said in an e-mailed response to questions. "Lots of hip-hop tracks sample Indian music, and a lot of their music sounds like it was influenced by hip-hop," he said. "We're putting together something real big" in India, that will include collaborations, live shows and "more movies with some of my Bollywood homies."

"I'm coming to take over Bollywood," Snoop Dogg promised during the video shoot. "I've never been able to come over there and do shows for you all, but now I'm going to come and do shows," he said in a clip that the video's promoters put on YouTube. "This is just the beginning."

Hollywood and Bollywood have been flirting with new partnerships, from deals with Reliance Big Entertainment, an Indian production company, to Sylvester Stallone's scheduled appearance in a Bollywood movie.

Western musicians have come to India for inspiration and new sounds for decades, but finding an enthusiastic audience among the country's billion-plus population has not always been easy for modern musicians. Western music of a generation ago still tops India's album charts: top albums sold in India included the Eric Clapton compilation "Complete Clapton" and Michael Jackson's "Thriller" for the month that ended June 15, according to Rolling Stone's July India edition.

While a few Western acts like Madonna and Coldplay also sell well in India, hip-hop has traditionally had limited appeal. Karan Wadhera, the co-founder of Cashmere Asia, a new Los Angeles-Mumbai entertainment company that enlisted Snoop Dogg for the project, said he had been looking for ways to introduce hip-hop to India.

Both Bollywood music and hip-hop traditionally involve a lot of rhythm and beats, Mr. Wadhera said, and some Bollywood movies have started using hip-hop dance in their musical numbers. "We're introducing Snoop to a very broad audience that has never heard of him before," he said.

The movie "Singh is Kinng" tells the story of a hapless Sikh who is sent to Australia to recover another Sikh in trouble. Many Sikhs hail from the Punjab region that crosses Pakistan and India, and have the surname Singh. Young Punjabis, as natives of the Punjab are called, have become increasingly well known for a proud, often flashy style that has some elements in common with hip-hop.

The film's star, Akshay Kumar, who has morphed from Bollywood action hero to comedic star in recent years, enjoyed a laid-back rapport with Snoop Dogg. The two even tried out a few Indian dance steps, said the video's co-director, Ted Chung, who is the other founder of Cashmere Asia. "Akshay is leading the way on that a bit," Mr. Chung said, but Snoop did "try to learn a few bhangra moves."

Snoop Dogg added: "Snoop Dogg's got love for everybody. I like how the Punjabis get down; the way they dress is fresh and they got a real appreciation for music.

By Heather Timmons

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