The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Surely it's a cliche of Indian proportions to remark in a travelogue that the denizens of the toured land are fans of Bollywood. It is hardly a mind-altering realisation to anyone that Hindi films have transcended culture and society and have implanted themselves into the consciousness of people as far apart as China and West Africa. Still, I continue to be pleasantly surprised when I'm accosted by strangers who want to tell me all that they know about Bollywood. What can I say? I'm easily pleased by little things.

In Aleppo, we were served breakfast by two chatty attendants, one in a tuxedo and the other not. The former said:
"Hindi films? Ah, I remember them well from my childhood. Dharmendra, Jeetendra, ... No, nowadays I do not watch them. They are so long! Beautiful, but long. It's an event of a whole day to see a Hindi film. It takes an hour to get the tickets, and then four hours to watch, and an hour or more to get back home. The whole day is gone! We like shorter films now. But in my childhood, ah, those were the days. Wonderful, wonderful."
The latter waited till the former was out of earshot and said:
"Hindi films? Wonderful, wonderful. Of course I remember Hema Malini and Raj Kapoor. I am not an Arab, I am a Kurd, and in my village, we still love Hindi films. Even the new ones. The old ones were better, the songs were better. But the new ones are good, too. We didn't understand all the dialogue, but we could make out many of the words, which are the same in our language. Ah, you know Kurmanji? Yes, words like 'dushman' and 'dost'. My ten-year old daughter loves Amitabh Bachhan. What is that? Some more orange juice? In a moment, sir. As I was saying... Hindi films? Wonderful."
Recently, one of my friends (who is from Côte d'Ivoire) assured me that Indians were loved in her country, and, what's more, there's a strong following for the films and fashion and music and dance. When I asked her to name a Bollywood actor, she changed the subject.

The last word, though, has to go to our little imp. In Petra, a bunch of young men sitting by the roadside called out to us as we walked past.

"India?" they said.

"Yes," said the imp.

"Welcome," they said.

The imp went over to them. They shook hands with him.

"You like Amitabh Bachhan?" they said. "Mithun Chakraborty?"

The imp gazed at them for a while as they chortled.

"What does that mean?" he said.


km said...

Just wait till your son discovers the delights of "Gunmaster-G9".

Fëanor said...

See now, I'd heard of this Gunmaster thing but never seen it. After reading this, I think I'd better remedy this lacuna in my education forthwith.

km said...

YMMV of course, but it helps to be 12 when watching that film :)

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