British actor Toby Stephens, or Gustav Graves to you and me, will be starring in forthcoming Bollywood film The Rising, also featuring Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherjee and supposed future Bond girl Aishwarya Rai, according to entertainment site Glamsham.com and Mid-Day Mumbai.
According to the producer, Bobby Bedi, The Rising is “an epic tale of friendship, love, loss and betrayal set against the backdrop of the Indian mutiny of 1857”.
“During a fierce battle in the Afghan wars of the mid-century, Mangal Pande (played by Khan), a heroic sepoy, rescues his British commanding officer, William Gordon (Stephens).”
The two become close friends until their friendship is undermined by the introduction of new gun cartridges for the Enfield rifle. “The new cartridge requires soldiers to bite through their greased casing, made from animal fat,” adds Bedi.
Both Hindu and Muslim soldiers object but Gordon (Stephens) gives an assurance, which later proves false, that the bullets are free from pollution. When the truth is discovered, a mutiny breaks out with Mangal Pande leading the rebels pitched against his old friend.
For the role, Stephens is taking lessons in Hindi and is is currently reading William Dalrymple’s White Mughuls and Saul David’s Indian Mutiny to try to understand the complex relationship between the British and the Indians.
Stephens has raised expectations that in future British actors, who have traditionally looked to Hollywood and the British industry for work, will also see Bollywood as offering opportunities.
He will be on location in India from October to March.
Stephens was expected to pursue a career in Hollywood after playing the villain Gustav Graves in the last Bond movie, Die Another Day. But he required no persuading from Bollywood as he did not want to “cash in on this Bond thing” and be typecast as a Hollywood villain.