Fantasy Casting: Who Could Play Hadji in Robert Rodriguez’s “Jonny Quest” Adaptation?

News of a Jonny Quest movie has been around for years. I think the first time I heard about a Jonny Quest movie was in the works was in the early ’00s and again in 2010, when Zac Efron was still a teenager and Dwayne Johnson was still “The Rock,” making his way in the movie industry. Now, years later, the Jonny Quest movie is shaping up with Robert Rodriguez at the helm. 

The Hollywood Reporter seems to be under the impression that Rodriguez is going to remake the 1960s Jonny Quest cartoon, in which the main young characters, Jonny and his adoptive brother Hadji, were kids. But, since not much is known about the film, and since the last news we had of Hollywood developing the project along the lines of the late ’90s remake The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest, maybe Rodriguez might be remaking The Real Adventures instead of the original ’60s show.

Efron being signed on to star at one time seems suggest that Hollywood’s more interested in something they can market to teens. Rodriguez has made both kids movies (Spy Kids, The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl) and teen-and-up movies (basically every other movie apart from the aforementioned), but I’d think Hollywood would be a lot more invested in Rodriguez’s grindhouse/action sensibilities than his kids action movie skills.

So with all of this said, here’s the question: If Hollywood wants Rodriguez to make The Real Adventures version, who will play Hadji?

I’ve been a huge fan of The Real Adventures, especially Hadji. On the list of cartoon crushes, Hadji was high on the list. Apart from just standard fangirling, I really loved Hadji and the revamp he got in the first season of The Real Adventures because it showed a real desire to portray a South Asian cartoon character as more than just a set of stereotypes. Instead of just being some dude with a turban, Hadji’s turban became part of his identity as a Sikh (in fact, this was my first entryway into learning about Sikhism, and I’m sure it was for many other fans of the show).

There’s a lot I could write about Hadji (and a lot I will repost here, since Moniqueblog had a thriving section on Hadji, including an interview with his voice actor, Michael Benyaer). But for now, I’m going to repost an article I’d written in 2010, back when Efron and Johnson were going to play Jonny and Race Bannon. In this article, I give my picks for who could play Hadji. I think that mostly everyone on this list could still be considered to play the part (and I guess by that logic, Efron and Johnson could be reconsidered to play their roles as well).


 

Dev Patel (Skins, Slumdog Millionaire, The Last Airbender)

I love Dev Patel, even in that abomination The Last Airbender (he was really one of the few who saved it from being more of a disaster than it already was), but poor Dev can’t (and shouldn’t be expected to) carry the weight of being every 19 to 20-something Indian character Hollywood wants to portray.

With that said, the guy can act (of course we all know about Slumdog Millionaire, but just look at how much pathos he put into Zuko in The Last Airbender even with the wooden lines he was given!) and he is a medal-winning Taekwondo champ, meaning he’ll be able to pick up on Judo choreography if the movie decides to acknowledge that Hadji not only has a head for computers, but is also a skilled Judo fighter.

Also, Patel’s character in Slumdog, Jamal, lived as an orphan living homeless throughout India. While Hadji’s life before Jonny was never dealt with in detail in the ’60s show, it’s more than probable that Hadji had some tough times similar to what Jamal and his brother Salim (below) had to go through.

Ashutosh Lobo Gajiwala (Slumdog Millionaire)

Gajiwala was the second of three actors (Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, Gajiwala, and Madhur Mittal, below) to portray Jamal’s older brother Salim. While both roles of Jamal and Salim are complicated in their own right, Salim’s characterization is arguably the most complex and most gripping, since he, unlike his younger brother, was driven to believe in an insane version of masculinity from his life on the street.

Even though Salim is scary and does some awful things throughout the film, the portrayal of Salim by all three actors still allows the audience to feel sympathy for him. Gajiwala plays Salim right when all of that hard living catches up to him and he starts believing in the idea that a man can’t be called a man unless he has a gun. While Hadji never carried a gun, the fact that Gajiwala could show that kind of mature acting prowess shows that he could do more than handle playing Hadji, a character who has also lived a hard life on the streets.

Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire, Say Salaam India: “Let’s Bring the Cup Home”)

Again, Salim was in good hands when he was portrayed as an adult by Mittal. Also, once again, we see how such a flawed character can, when played right, still bring about sympathy. And, like with Patel and Gajiwala, have proven that he knows how to portray an orphaned kid who grew up homeless.

Adhir Kaylan (Aliens in America, Up in the Air, Youth and Revolt, Rules of Engagement, Nip/Tuck)

Kaylan first showed up on the American TV radar with Aliens in America, a show about a Pakistani exchange student living with a middle-American white family. His acting was some of the best acting I had seen that year, and I think it was only the tip of the iceberg of his acting prowess. If he was cast as Hadji, I think he could do the role justice.

Hadji from Season 2 of The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. Credit: Hanna-Barbera/Warner Bros. 

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