Last week, Bollywood's Lara Dutta (Miss Universe 2000) and fellow Bollywood actor Dino Morea traveled to Los Angeles for an all-access visit with the Lakers and the NBA, including courtside seats at a Lakers – Sacramento Kings game and time with Kobe Bryant and Kurt Rambis at L.A.’s practice facility.
Dutta and Morea were in L.A. to film a 26-minute NBA special produced for ESPN Star Sports (India), the NBA’s TV partner, as part of the NBA’s ongoing international effort to grow the game and bring it closer to fans around the world. We spent some time with both Dutta and Morea following their visit to L.A.’s practice facility to talk about hoops in India, Bollywood and their respective careers.
MT: On helping to bringing the NBA to India.
Dutta: Dino and I have a massive following back home, and Bollywood is the biggest entertainment in India – the viewership is massive, over a billion people. If you’re trying to promote anything, Bollywood is a really good way to do it, because people are listening and watching what you’re doing, and they want to do the things you’re doing. I think it’s really amazing to come out here and bring this to them, because everybody watches the games, but to have a little bit more of an insight into it is really amazing. We’ve toured the STAPLES Center, we went in the locker room for the players, we’ve been courtside to a game, we’ve been talking to Kobe, and these are things that (Indian people) don’t have access to, so for them it’s a huge, big deal.
MT: On her basketball prowess.
Dutta: I played basketball in school, and believe it or not, I was one of the taller girls in sports, but I was pretty much a shooter. But I haven’t played since, which is a shame … I’ve been too busy making movies.
MT: On Bollywood.
Dutta: Let me put it this way: It has a viewership or probably about 1.4 billion people worldwide, and it’s the largest movie industry actually in the world in terms of production, because we do over 600 movies a year. It’s really massive … But there is a lot of crossover cinema happening, and in fact, my next release – which is the summer’s biggest release in India next year – is an action film that takes place underwater. It’s also the biggest collaboration between Bollywood and Hollywood, as our entire technical team is from L.A. The movie is called “Blue.” … I didn’t know how to swim at the start of the film, I was extremely hydrophobic … But I’m now a certified diver.
MT: On spending time with Kobe:
Dutta: In India, the biggest basketball player of all-time has always been Michael Jordan … Out of the newer lot and the younger players, I think Kobe is the biggest (basketball) player in India. Sometimes you hear – and I’m sure people say the same things about me – that somebody is a celebrity and is very standoffish and you don’t really get to know them very well, but it was really nice to meet (Kobe). He’s a really sweet guy. And he was amazing to watch on court (on Sunday). I really enjoyed that – we were courtside and it was fantastic, you could actually hear them plan what they were going to do.
MT: On L.A. and the Lakers:
Dutta: What I’ve been really impressed with is the set up. In India we don’t have anything that’s that huge, even though cricket has a massive viewership. The way that the whole business is handled as a whole is very different, and I’ve been really impressed with that. Just the things and the facilities that are available to the players, to the way the game is marketed, to the whole buzz and even all the celebrities being there and cashing in on that is fantastic. I hope at some point in time in India we’re able to do that, and more importantly, I hope the NBA has an Indian player on it very soon.
To listen to the complete interview with Dutta, click below:
MT: On Bollywood:
Morea: Cricket and films are the two biggest industries in India, where we have a population of a billion plus, and besides India, we have Indians living all over the world who are another couple hundred million. So we have Indians everywhere, and everybody watches Bollywood films. (With that kind of audience), if we can give people an opportunity to think that maybe we can play this game and go somewhere, maybe be drafted sometime to the NBA – it’s just trying to inspire people and giving them hope for something better.
MT: On watching the Lakers game courtside:
Morea: It’s the first time I’ve been courtside, and I think it’s one of the most unbelievable experiences. For instance, for me, if I go to a cricket match in India, there are about 70 or 80,000 people sitting in the crowd, and that’s electrifying. But sitting courtside, it’s as if you’re part of the game. You hear the players scream at each other … It just adds to the energy, and it’s brilliant.
To listen to the complete interview with Morea, click below: