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Hooray for Bollywood? Holding out for a 'Hero'? That's Chris Kattan, with Mumbai moxie

August 6, 2009 By:
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Photo by Kerry Monteen/IFC

Slumdog slam-dunk?

You could make the case for comics Chris Kattan and his dad, Kip King, who find that Indian summer comes early this year with "Bollywood Hero," a Mumbai-minted mini-series coming to IFC cable for three nights beginning on Aug. 6.

Mango and curry -- that's some spicy concoction: Chris created some of the livelier comic creations on "Saturday Night Live" -- including the citrusy Mango -- during his seven successful seasons on the series.

As for Dad -- who Chris grew up knowing as Jerome Kattan -- well, he's starred and guest-starred on enough TV series and in clubs to curry favor with fans worldwide as well.

And both are grounded in the Groundlings -- the legendary L.A. improv group that proved a giddyap to many a comic's galloping career.

Father and son are ideally suited -- and occasionally caftaned -- in this comical kebab of a well-crafted movie in which Kattan -- who portrays a self-critical Chris Kattan, tired of creating only comedy parts -- heads to India, where he's been cast as the romantic lead in a Bollywood musical as his father -- portraying his ... father -- becomes a squatter in his son's L.A. home.

As for the Kattans, they are out and about, talking about their Mumbai madness -- although dad shot all his scenes stateside -- in a badinage that would be at home in a new deli of their own creation.

Who's got the coriander-beef special?

"Oh, I did get my sense of humor from my dad," says Chris, 39, of his teacher/tipster, who was on the ground floor of the Groundlings as a founder.

"He's my hero," says the star of "Bollywood Hero."

The son's heroics are no stranger to millions of "SNL" fans: From Mango to Monkey Boy to, with Will Ferrell, the bobble-headed Butabi Brothers, the actor who portrayed a Gay Hitler that Mel Brooks would be proud of, has, since he left the show in 2003, appeared in a variety of movies.

As for raising this "Peculiar Dancing Boy" -- the name of the film-within-the-"Bollywood Hero" film in which the "Saturday Night Live" star shows some "Saturday Night Fever" footwork -- dad says simply: "I saw him as a genius."

And he saw him often. Chris -- whose parents are divorced and whose mom is Buddhist -- was a student of his father's at the Groundlings.

"Chris started when he was 14, maybe 15."

"He may have been my teacher," injects Chris, "but never with a heavy hand."

Heavy was the influence. Proud of his Jewish heritage, Kip caught the comic essence of Borscht Belt capers and used them in his own act.

"I'd do satires on the Borscht Belt comics, and you can see that Jewish influence in Buddy Mills," one of Chris' creations," he says.

"The Jewishness prevails through my father's" impact, concedes Chris.

Of Iraqi Jewish descent, Kip raises a toast to his own father, "born in Baghdad; he was a [messenger], in fact, for Lawrence of Arabia."

The message isn't lost on Chris, who covets the comic education from his dad. It's all a matter of channeling the past.

"I introduced him to a lot of the famous comics from the Catskills and from [early] TV; I wanted him to know his television heritage," says Kip.

"I was obsessed with Jack Benny," chips in Chris.

"And Chris loves Buster Keaton, just like I do."

Lorne Michaels, the fabled creator of "SNL," got a kick out of the Chris-Kip connection.

"He said I have roots, and I have Dad to thank for that."

They can thank each other for the comic interplay in "Bollywood Hero," even though, ironically, they never appear on set together, communicating in scenes only by phone.

Phone it in? Not these two. Dad dials it up in the praise department for his admittedly very talented son, whose many creations were among the hallmarks of "SNL" history.

"I think he's reached a bit of security" with his career, says Kip.

Can that, counters Chris: "I don't know if I can ever relax."

Yet, the comedian whose Monkey Boy made a submachine gun out of a simple apple is not manic to the core: "I don't need that kind of over-the-top energy anymore. I can be myself."

Honest to a California fault, Chris concedes that "three years ago," when the IFC project was first proposed, "I didn't know much about Bollywood," India's take on Hollywood musicals.

Kattan's dry explanation at how he found out: "The guy at the dry cleaners told me about it."

And while Chris crosses choreography off his list of wanna-dos -- "a point of the movie is that Chris, such a bad dancer, is in a Bollywood musical" -- Kip disagrees, cautioning that maybe one day his son will have his own reality series: "Dancing With the Jews."

For now, he's having a ball. Next up: "The Middle," for ABC. Finally, says Chris, "I'm playing someone normal."

He would love to work with IFC again.

"Maybe take it a little more Jewish!" Chris kibitzes.

No joke that father and son get the joke. And nothing could make their relationship warmer -- not even the heat of India.

"We've accomplished the height of improv."

And what is that, Kip? "Love -- our love for each other."

"I love you, Dad," responds his son/student/Indian summer co-voyager.

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