Thursday, December 18, 2008
Popularity of Bollywood outside India
I have not seen many Bollywood movies after the fifties. Around 1988, I went to buy a second hand sofa from an old Greek lady who migrated to Melbourne and she started talking about Nargis and Raj Kapoor. Slowly, it became clear that Bollywood movies have been popular in many countries ouside India. It was not clear to me why since I did not like the few I saw that were made after the fifties. Amitav Ghosh met many Egptians who were familiar with Hindi movies and songs around 1980 and wonders whether this is due to non aligned movement.In Confessions Of A Xenophile he says "But it needs to be acknowledged here that neither I nor any of the other elements of India that were present in rural Beheira – the pumps and the Hindi film songs – would have been able to find a place there if not for the existence of the Non-aligned Movement." While not taking any thing away from the general thrust of Ghosh's essay, popularity of Bollywood films and songs in many countries seem to be due to other reasons. Brian Larkin says in Bollywood Comes To Nigeria "Ever since Lebanese distributors began importing Indian movies in the 1950s, though, Hausa viewers have recognized the strong visual, social and even political similarities between the two cultures. By the early 1960s, when television was first introduced, Hausa fans were already demanding (over British objections) that Indian movies be shown on TV." Apparently, this medium was first introduced by the British in Nigeria for 'propoganda' purposes : to show the supriority of their various projects for progress and thus partly justifying their rule. The introduction by Lebanese traders was a commercial move and Larkin sees the popularity of Bollywood as an unintended consequence which opened up space for many younger Husa. The corresponding transformations are described in much detail and depth in his recent book 'Signal and Noise'. Some pages of the book are available here. In Itineraries of Indian Cinema: African Videos,Bollywood and Global Media Larkin discusses the popularity of Bollywood in other countries (but mainly in Nigeria), but the paper was written in 2003 and the picture might have changed. I wonder whether one approach toPakistan is through films, cricket and more contacts.