‘Big in Bollywood’: Omi Vaidya’s story charms and touches in new documentary

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The film covers covers various aspects of Omi’s journey to stardom.

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"Omi-vaidya"
Omi Vaidya; photo by Bala Chandran

On Christmas 2009, a big budget film lined with massive expectations released worldwide and almost immediately began to shatter box office records. That film was the Rajkumar Hirani directed comedy-drama 3 Idiots.

Upon release, in addition to being amazed at the extent the film was setting the cash registers jingling at the box office, people were raving about one particular actor in the film. It was not superstar leading man Aamir Khan, or leading lady Kareena Kapoor Khan. Nor was it R. Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, or Boman Irani. It was one of us, an Indian American. That man was Omi Vaidya, whose rendition as the bumbling Chatur in the film was unanimously praised and lapped up by audiences.

How did Omi, a native of California, end up in one of the biggest, most loved and watched movies of all time? How was the experience of becoming a star overnight after the release of the film? These are some of the burning questions that audiences have been asking since 3 Idiots’ release.

Fortunately for us, Netflix recently released an all new documentary that answers those very questions and more entitled Big in Bollywood.

Without spoiling any of the contents of the film, the documentary covers various aspects of Omi’s journey to stardom. In the film we get a glimpse of Omi’s personal life – his parents, friends (who shot the documentary), and his wife and also how he was cast in 3 Idiots, then leading us through the experience of attending the film’s premiere, Omi’s interaction with fans, and the recognition and impact the character of Chatur has had on not only Omi’s career, but also in the eyes of the people and the accolades that came Omi’s way post release.

After viewing this documentary, I was absolutely charmed and touched by the heartwarming nature of this story in its entirety. It really evoked the feeling that we are witnessing one of our own, a young Indian American traveling a road less traveled, achieve a dream which many of us may have dreamt or have been discouraged toward pursuing as a result of growing up in environments where conventions have reigned supreme.

I will say that this is an extremely fun documentary, with dollops of humor and insight on the Indian film industry. Sequences that show how Omi got the role in 3 Idiots, Omi’s arrival in India (which also has a timely unplanned appearance by a big Bollywood superstar) prior to 3 Idiots’ premiere and then the recognition that came after, his friends’ discovery of how movie production works in India, his friends’ attempts to join Omi at the film’s premiere, and Omi’s preparation for a big awards show where he also subsequently wins are gems that must be witnessed. Additionally, the sequences chronicling Omi’s visits to different parts of India with the 3 Idiots team, showcasing some of the chaos that comes with being a star in India, is very fascinating to see, particularly because one realizes that stars in India are perceived no less than gods because of the intensity of emotion and length people go to simply catch a glimpse of a face they see on the big screen. Audiences will also appreciate seeing snippets of Omi’s interaction with the other stars of the film – namely Madhavan, director Raju Hirani, and Aamir Khan. In addition to Omi’s camaraderie with his friends, we get to witness parts of his relationship with these big names as well.

Aside from this, the glimpses that we get on Omi’s personal life – his life in California, his relationship with his parents and his wife, and his friends, bring the story home for the viewers and create some of the most beautiful, natural, and soothing moments when compared to the chaos of stardom. It is an interesting juxtaposition which I have not seen before in a documentary about an actor. Normally, we only see the chaotic stardom part, but never that which shows the star in his personal space. Fascinating how in one world, two different things which can bring joy present themselves so drastically different – the support that comes with family and friends versus the enjoyable whirlwind that comes with professional success.

I would also like to express my deep praise for the music video at the conclusion of the documentary. The song is incredibly catchy, and I do hope that it is made available as a separate track. I can see it being played at parties for sure down the line.

To see Omi’s dedication to his craft, and the unyielding support and love from his parents, wife, and friends toward achieving his dreams, the documentary presents a touching portrait of an amazing opportunity and journey that film history will remember for years to come. What is most important to point out is that Omi is very humble, practical and grounded – both before the release of 3 Idiots and after. In an industry where these traits are hard to find, Omi serves as a perfect role model to those young Indian Americans who seek to follow in his footsteps and pursue careers in entertainment.

Omi’s story is truly one of inspiration, for it encourages each and every one of us to not only pursue our dreams, but always do so with a smile and open mind towards every opportunity. We never know what will resonate and what will take us toward what we want to achieve, and we just have to continue to work hard and ride the wave of life.

Big in Bollywood is now available for streaming on Netflix, and I give it a perfect 5/5 score. It will make you laugh, it will entertain you, and most of all, it will inspire you and make you cheer for a person whom is one of us. This is only the tip of the iceberg for Omi Vaidya, and he will continue to create more memorable characters for us in the years to come. Go check it out!

(Vikrum Mathur is a political professional, actor, and avid film buff who resides in Maryland)

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