As a young girl being brought up in South Africa, Hollywood star Charlize Theron says watching Bollywood films was a Sunday routine as her native country has a sizeable Indian population.
Theron, the star of countless and critically acclaimed Hollywood titles such as Mad Max: Fury Road, Blonde, Monster, The Italian Job, and Atomic Blonde, said she is fascinated by India’s culture and its people.
“The largest Indian population outside of India is in South Africa. I flew in last night and we went to have dinner, and I walked into the restaurant and it smelled like home,” the actor said at the HT Leadership Summit in New Delhi.
“I was like, ‘I know this smell.’ I grew up with a lot of Indian culture around me. And I think it’s partly why I’ve always wanted to come to India. I’m fascinated by the culture. I’m fascinated by the people and fascinated by the country. There’s a beauty here that is just unique to India, you do not find this anywhere else,” she added.
The 48-year-old actor said she was introduced to Indian movies as a child and she watched them a lot more than Hollywood films.
“And because there’s such a big population of Indians out in South Africa, I got to watch more Bollywood movies than I did American movies. When I was around 10, we got this kind of a streamer on our television and the predominant movies that were on it were Bollywood movies.
“And every Sunday, they would put a new movie on and that was what we did. Every Sunday we sat and we watched a Bollywood movie,” Theron said, adding that the Indian films made her fall in “love with dancing”.
“Musicals were my favourite to watch,” she added.
Theron was in conversation with filmmaker Karan Johar, and the two discussed a range of subjects, including her journey to Hollywood from South Africa, equal pay, cancel culture, and making a foray into film production.
Before she became an actor, Theron said her passion was ballet dancing but a knee injury put a stop to her dream.
“It was soul-crushing because when you’re young, you feel invincible. You feel like you will never age. Your body is always going to work. I was 18 at the time. I had never thought of doing anything other than being a dancer.
“People had kind of said in the background, you’re too tall and there’s too much weight on your knees. And I ignored it. Then I had an injury where I had to kind of take two weeks off and then I realised I wasn’t going to come back from it.” Theron said her mother encouraged her to give acting a shot.
“She said, ‘You were a great storyteller when you were on stage. I believed everything that you did.’ And she said, ‘You know, I hear they make movies in Hollywood’,” Theron revealed.
The actor went to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting and soon landed a non-speaking part in the 1995 slasher film Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest.
After doing a few more films, Theron landed the gig that changed her life — 1997 movie The Devil’s Advocate, in which she starred alongside Keanu Reeves and Hollywood icon Al Pacino.