We already suspected The Eternals could be Marvel‘s most ambitious movie to date, but we couldn’t have guessed it would include a Bollywood-inspired musical number. In an interview with Deadline’s New Hollywood podcast, actor Kumail Nanjiani revealed that his character’s secret identity is a Bollywood star.
Directed by Chloé Zhao, The Eternals is about an ancient race of quasi-immortal superhuman heroes, who were sent to Earth to protect humanity. “A lot of it takes place in the present day,” Nanjiani explained. “By this point, we’ve been on Earth for a long time. And my character, for instance, is like ‘OK we’re supposed to keep a low profile, no one should know.’ So I become a Bollywood movie star, that’s my secret identity. We’re supposed to keep quiet and I’ve become the biggest Bollywood movie star.”
It sounds like The Eternals takes a lot of liberties with the source material since the main characters aren’t especially well-known even among Marvel fans. The original version of Nanjiani’s character Kingo was a Japanese samurai hero, while the film’s female lead Sersi (played by Gemma Chan) was inspired by a Greek god, and three female characters in the ensemble cast (played by Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, and Lauren Ridloff) were originally men in the comics.
In the same interview, Nanjiani describes the experience of arriving on set to rehearse a dance scene with around 50 South Asian actors. “I was like, we went from like, none of us, to so many in one scene!”
“I took months of Bollywood dance classes to prepare for that,” he added. “It’s really a workout… and you know, there’s like 52 dancers, and 51 of them are professional dancers, and then there’s me!”
Nanjiani also discussed Zhao’s filmmaking techniques, revealing something unexpected for a Marvel director: She doesn’t use much green-screen. Apparently she’s more geared toward practical effects, and shot a lot of “magic hour” scenes, filming in a short window of time to get the right lighting at dawn or dusk. So while we won’t go overboard and say The Eternals will be outright experimental, it does sound like it’ll be more aesthetically interesting than most Marvel spinoffs—as well as having the most diverse cast to date.