A man of many talents

Director Wes Anderson, in addition to “hearting Walis,” also has a soft spot for Kumar Pallana.  Why?

Wes Anderson has given Kumar Pallana (Pagoda [in The Royal Tenenbaums] ) a part in each of his movies (with the exception of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)). Pallana used to work at his favorite Coffee shop in Dallas.

Pallana is actually quite a character:

Born in India in 1918, Pallana began as a juggler and singer, performing for small Indian communities throughout Africa. In 1946 he took his act to America, eventually appearing on several television shows, including The Mickey Mouse Show and Captain Kangaroo. Pallana also toured nightclubs in Las Vegas, Paris and Beirut, combining magic, rope tricks, comedy and plate-spinning under the name “Kumar of India.”

Apul informs me that the new video for the song “Clock In Now” by the group The Deathray Davies also features Pallana and some of his tricks.  When I am that old I hope to be nearly that cool.

13 thoughts on “A man of many talents

  1. Pallana’s son is in The Royal Tenanbaums too…he plays the doctor when Luke Wilson attempts suicide.

  2. Imagine having Pallana and Fauja Singh as grandfathers. How awesome would that be? You’d be genetically wired to be the coolest oldest person ever,

  3. Kumar of India is an awesome name, it’s exactly the kind of thing you associate with scratchy Pathé News footage from the Raj.

    “Wonders of the Mysterious East! Here in Cuttack entertainment is provided by the Hindoo fakir Kumar of India. Watch in awe as he juggles fire and demonstrates his yoga black magic”

  4. Rupa, wasn’t Pallana’s son the one who was playing tennis with Luke Wilson’s character in the “one shoe” scene?

    Also, Kumar Pallana was interviewed by The Believer when RT was first released. I have a copy if anyone wants it- he’s a fairly intriguing dude!

  5. His son also plays the indian tennis star that is playing against Richie when he does that whole freak out/meltdown.

    Kumar Pallana was amazing in Terminal and will be in John Turturro’s upcoming Romance & Cigarettes with James Ganolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet and Mandy Moore.

  6. oh wait the tennis player wasn’t the son… i’m mistaken. it was Sanjay Mathew.

    Gotta love all the brown in Tenenbaums.

  7. Gotta love all the brown in Tenenbaums.

    well..as far as highly educated, whimsical, idiosyncratic, family-centric eccentrics go…there does some to be case of like meets like..

    ducks and runs for cover to avoid hailstorm of protest for such gross stereotyping

  8. Sanjay Mathew (who plays Sanjay Gandhi) is a psychiatrist in real life. The DVD has a Charlie Rose-formatted spoof where the doc talks about the film. He favors prescribing Remeron of all the anti-depressants. Personally, I’m all for Wellbutrin :P

    p.s. no relation

  9. Is it just me or is the brown presence in mainstream Hollywood movies on the rise – there was Aasif Mandvi in Spiderman 2, Kal Penn in A lot like Love, Aman Johal in Bad news bears, Sitara Shah in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Ajay Naidu in The Honeymooners, Rajiv Surendra in Mean Girls, Parvesh Cheena in Barbershop 1 & 2…

    I guess the common thread in all these movies is that the desi character is sort of in the background and not central to the movie.

  10. Well the Harry Potter girl was courtesy JK Rowling as opposed to any Hollywood bosses. But let’s not count our chickens yet – a few fleeting appearances doesn’t change one thing. In an American movie, casting directors can effectively interchange a black, Oriental and white actress without worrying too much about its effect on sales, and likewise for a black or white actor. For example, nobody really minded Lucy Liu was an Angel. Although they made a real hatchet job of Taxi.

    A brown face is still (mostly) cast AS A BROWN FACE. And a brown face still stands out.