In December 2019, Collider visited CCXP in São Paulo, Brazil, and saw some delightful footage of Marvel’s upcoming Eternals. Among the many glimpses of gold in the raw footage? Star Kumail Nanjiani “decked out in colorful garb and makeup, dancing, surrounded by ensemble dancers in a seemingly Bollywood-inspired scene.” Wait, what? Eternals is gonna have a Bollywood dance number, definitely the first in the MCU? Nanjiani had the chance to explain the context for the scene in the New Hollywood podcast. And friends? I’m excited.
“A lot of it takes place in the present day,” began Nanjiani of director Chloé Zhao‘s take on the material, about a group of immortal aliens who’ve lived hidden on earth for the past 7000 years, until the time comes for them to protect us all. “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.” Now that’s a great comedic clash of contexts (while also giving context to the footage we originally saw), and I am always here for an MCU film actively leaning into comedy.
Nanjiani went on to explain the representative importance of filming his character’s dance number with 50 or so South Asian actors, joking, “I was like, we went from, like, none of us, to so many in one scene!” He also explained the strong physical training required for such an intense scene: “I took months of Bollywood dance classes to prepare for that. 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!” Now his ripped pic makes a lot more sense…
In general, it sounds like Zhao’s pushing the limits of the MCU’s visual grammar — Nanjiani goes on to describe her preferment of practical effects, disdain for green screen, and love of magic hour — and I am way the heck here for it. Eternals, in all its Bollywood-dancing glory, comes to theaters November 6. And while you’re here, check out my interview with Nanjiani about his great Apple TV+ series Little America.