When Bollywood crossed borders and connected with international audience
As US President Barack Obama amused us on R-Day by quoting a 'DDLJ' dialogue, we reminisce a few instances when Bollywood evinced international interest and touched chords with unexpected audience
As India celebrated its 66th Republic Day, two events seemed surprising. One was the random rain during the R-Day parade in New Delhi and another, Barack Obama's presence as chief guest making him the first US president to do so. However, one factor is common to all national day celebrations in our country: Bollywood songs.
During his address at the Siri Fort in Delhi, Obama chose a popular line from the Shah Rukh Khan-Kajol starrer 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge' to make a point about geopolitics
In fact, Hindi cinema seldom gets its due credit for fostering patriotism through feisty lyrics. In similar fashion, Bollywood's emotional influence among non-diaspora populace abroad is a story that seldom gets noted. That also makes Obama's decision to paraphrase a dialogue from 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge' (1995) — "Senorita, bade bade deshon mein…" — quite interesting. hitlist points out some random facts and anecdotes from recent or distant past to emphasise Hindi films' cultural influence…
Soviet Union might be a thing of nostalgic past but Raj Kapoor's films are still in vogue. Even today, a generation of cinephiles from countries like Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan or Turkmenistan are likely to churn out playful numbers — say, 'Mera joota hai Japani' — from movies like 'Awara' (1951) and 'Shree 420' (1955) in thick accent. This magical cinematic affair has something to do with the fact that the Soviet government loved Raj Kapoor's socialist-leaning films as they didn't promote anarchy.
Afghanistan's connect with Hindi cinema goes far beyond this Amitabh Bachchan and Sridevi-starrer 'Khuda Gawah' (1992)
Language no bar
Shashi Tharoor, while talking to us, reminisced that during his UN work in Senegal, he came across an illiterate village woman who took a bus every month to Dakar to watch a Bollywood movie. She neither understood the dialogues nor could she read the French subtitles. But then, it didn't matter to her as she loved the singing, dancing and action on the big screen. "The story is understood and she goes home with stars in her eyes about India and its culture," added the MP.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
All the rage
Who doesn't know Big B? Try asking this question during your visit to Egypt. Apparently, the ageless superstar is a very popular figure in the land of Pyramids. So much so that a taxi driver on the streets of Cairo is most likely to ask "How is Amitabh Bachchan doing?" on knowing your Indian origin. His popularity owes to the screenings of his films from the '70s when his angry young man image was in flourish. Interestingly, he is still young in that politically angry country.
'Mother India' (1957) is one of the most watched Hindi films in Nigeria and Ethiopia
Written in the stars
Did you know it's illegal to watch Hollywood films in North Korea? And this has been the case even before Seth Rogen and James Franco's latest comedy 'The Interview' got embroiled in the recent controversy. Regardless, in 2007, North Korea's government did something exceptionally different from the routine by screening Aamir Khan's 'Taare Zameen Par' to celebrate 40 years of New Delhi's diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. What's more intriguing is that it was the Koreans who selected that movie.
Raj Kapoor happens to be a popular figure in former Soviet Union nations
Not really an island
Jacqueline Fernandez isn't the only thing Sri Lankan about Bollywood. In our neighbouring country, Bollywood films — not Tamil films although they are closer geographically — happen to be a huge draw. One of the reasons why Hindi film stars are perceived as icons among youth especially in urban areas. Like a retired diplomat once stated, "Hindi films have done more to bring people of these two countries closer than high commissions with colonial hangover!"
Jacqueline Fernandez isn't the only thing Sri Lankan about Bollywood
By hook or crook
Not a year goes by without the Pakistan government banning a handful of Indian films (read: Bollywood) for sensitive reasons. Nonetheless, that doesn't stop our neighbours across the border from watching the films they'd love to spend their time on. Even if that means downloading them illegally or procuring pirated DVDs. Several spots in Lahore and Karachi are famous dens for pirated DVDs of Bollywood films — both that releases as well as doesn't in the country.
According to legend, two of the most popular modern Indian figures in China have been Tagore and Gandhi, for years now. But going by the current trend, Bollywood films are gradually picking up. So much so '3 Idiots' (2009)'s unexpected popularity in the mainland is a stuff of legend now. The film's heartwarming story about India's education system struck a chord. And that's along with a number of Hindi film songs that were rendered by Chinese on TV talent shows in recent memory.
On the watch
It's easy to call Afghanistan a war-ravaged nation with a major chunk of it struggling with electricity issues. But at the same time, change is on its way and entertainment is gradually making a comeback.
Which is also why Bollywood's reference point is no more limited to 'Khuda Gawah' (1992) because it not only starred Amitabh Bachchan as a Pathan but also shot extensively in Kabul. As of today, Afghans are increasingly tuning in to watch Hindi films — either through TV or pirated DVDs — as a source of weekly recreation.