By: Sharanya Ramesh
When we first moved to Papua New Guinea, I knew I was in for many surprises. What I had not counted on, was the surprise of seeing the only theatre in the town I lived in, screening “Lagaan” one week and “Devdas” the next. Dont get me wrong, the theatre didn’t have a continuous screening of Bollywood’s latest hits. These two movies ran for about 5 years before they changed it to a Korean movie. But for 5 years, I had every one of my papua new guinean friends go down to “Tokplace” (the theatre) with the customary popcorn and soda and watch Amir Khan and Sharukhan and the beauties of Bollywood, act, dance and talk “Indian” Hindi, as many of them would call it. So what makes Bollywood so popular outside India?
The answer to this question might not be a well rounded or a well expressed one. It is one based on personal experience and a lot of friends begging me to get back “The Indian E.T.” (Koi Mil Gaya), “That one where the girl runs a lot!” (DDLJ) and “Little little things happen.” (Kuch kuch hota hai) and many more movies. So when every year as I got back home to India, I would make my yearly visit to a CD shop and buy all the latest masala hits that Bollywood had to offer to my friends across the ocean.
When one day, after a friend and I finished watching Devdas, she sighed and looked at me and said, “Does everyone dress like that, all the time?” As I hurriedly tried to explain to her why we didn’t wear Ghagra’s and Sherwani’s on a daily basis and how hardly anyone lived in palaces anymore, it suddenly seemed so clear as to why these movies were such a big hit with foreigners. Bollywood movies, however loud and clichéd they seem to many of us, portray a unique style to them. These movies, with their song and dance numbers, extravagant costumes and beautiful locations, is pure entertainment. “The hero NEVER dies in a bollywood movie!” exclaims a friend of mine, when I asked her why she loved the movies I bought for her from home. Being an Australian, she would still pick Hritik Roshan to Hugh Jackman, a phenomena I would have found extremely foreign a few years earlier. Some of my friends even have posters of Bollywood hero’s and heroines in their rooms. “Priyanka Chopra is my favourite,” says a friend of mine in her American drawl. “Indian actresses are so gorgeous! I love that they are curvy and so beautiful,” she continues. However, it is not just the story line that many like to watch (or read, depending on the subtitles). Bollywood songs are a huge hit amongst the young foreign crowd too. It has now become uncommon for me to see my friends groove to Himesh Reshamiya songs in the shower or play it loudly on their stereos in their cars. “I have NO idea what it means, but you have to admit, it’s so catchy!” says Mark, a friend of mine who is extremely attached to his Hindi song collection.
The phenomena might not be that new or even that big at the moment. But it is spreading fast. I’ve seen my friends, classmates and even the people who work with my father lean towards Hindi cinema for the sake of entertainment, love and music. The influence of Hindi cinema is growing fast and growing big. At some stage they will even pose to be a threat to Hollywood cinemas. For now however, bollywood continues to grow in small pockets in the hearts and rooms and car stereos of many people outside the country.