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Thursday, July 29, 2021

Cultural Sutra: A Bollywood Connect Between India And Indonesia

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Raghu Gururaj
Raghu Gururaj
Consul General of India to Sumatra, Medan

INDONESIA: It is not without reason that local media in Indonesia often allude to India as the “Bollywood Country”. As the largest producer of commercial films in the world, the Bollywood industry of India has carved out a special niche for itself in today’s world. Even in countries where Hindi is not spoken, the attraction of common people towards Bollywood is evident.

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Indonesia is no exception, where Bollywood is a source of entertainment for many Indonesians. Hindi movies are shown about twice a day on different channels. Even on television, several of their advertisements are made in India (featuring stars such as Shah Rukh Khan and showing women wearing saris) but dubbed in Indonesian.

Photo Credit: Dharma Productions

Indonesia’s love for Bollywood movies

Bollywood movies are hugely popular in Indonesia, especially on the islands of Bali and Java, where the local music and dance scene is heavily influenced by Indian tradition and performing arts. People on the street routinely mention Kuch Kuch Hota Hai indicating the immense popularity of that movie. It was said that this movie and Titanic were screened in Indonesia in the same year, but Kuch Kuch Hota Hai raked in more money and ran for more weeks in local theatres. It is also a fact that local theatres charge more for Bollywood movies as compared to local or Hollywood movies.

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In many Indonesian cities, Indian tourists are sometimes greeted with the names of Bollywood films, characters, and actors. It sometimes becomes an ice breaker or talking point between the people of India and Indonesia. In this country, most people are familiar with big stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Rani Mukherjee, etc. However, the youth are keen followers of new Bollywood movies as they easily identify themselves with modern actors like Ranveer Singh, Ranbir Singh, Deepika Padukone, Shraddha Kapoor, etc.

The reaction of the Indonesian youth to the untimely demise of young Bollywood popular actor Sushant Singh Rajput was indicative of how local people keenly follow Bollywood movies and their actors. There was an outpouring of grief over his death and many Indonesians called for an inquiry into his suicide case.

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Further, a video of a Jakarta traffic policeman dancing to the tune of Chhaiyya Chhaiyya and a video on a billboard giving tribute to Late Sushant Singh Rajput at a major road junction in Jakarta going viral on the Internet were not fleeting moments, but a manifestation of deep love for Bollywood.

Bollywood movies are regularly screened in movie theatres in major metros as also shown on local TV channels. It is not uncommon to find advertisements or schedule of Bollywood movie screenings in local newspapers.

Photo Credit: Instagram

Bollywood fan clubs are thriving in Indonesia with some of them named after iconic Bollywood stars like Aamir Khan and Rani Mukherjee. Besides their activities, social media has emerged as another way to connect, transcending geographical barriers.

The twists and turns in the relationship of Bollywood stars are not just the topic of social media pages but even the mainstream media. For example, the deaths of Sushant Singh Rajput and Rishi Kapoor received wide and intensive media coverage and scrutiny.

Indonesia’s craze for ‘Desi TV shows’

Though Indonesia has witnessed a good increase in the number of K-pop fans over the last two decades, especially among the middle to upper classes, Bollywood has held its own, particularly so in remote and rural regions of Indonesia. Indonesia watches not just Indian cinema, but also Indian television. Where the movies and TV shows are not subtitled, they are dubbed in Bahasa, which are also well received. Indian actors have been offered roles on Indonesian television shows as they are huge crowd pullers.

In recent years, several Indian TV stars have visited their remotest fan bases in Indonesia like Cilacap in Central Java to interact with thousands of their fans. A local TV channel ANTV invited Indian TV stars of Swabhimaan to Cilacap, where popular TV actors like Ankita Sharma, Sangeeta Chauhan, Samridh Bawa, and Sahil Uppal were greeted enthusiastically by fans.

Any Indian visiting Indonesia, particularly Bali, would vouch that local people greet them with names of Bollywood celebrities. The Bollywood craze has spilled over to Bollywood music and dance. Several local musical bands sing a range of Bollywood songs at social events. Local FM stations broadcast Hindi music, as well as Bollywood influenced ‘dangdut’ (local songs). It is quite common to hear popular melodies from hit Bollywood songs reincarnated as dangdut numbers by putting Indonesian lyrics to the songs.

Indonesia’s ‘love affair’ with Bollywood music

Many young Indonesians have become local Bollywood singers and have their own youtube channels with a huge following. They model their singing styles after Shreya Ghoshal, Neha Kakkar, Arijit Singh, Jubin Nautiyal, or other recent day singers. These singers have a high skill level and sing with exact pronunciation, though they may not understand the meaning of the lyrics.

Photo Credit: Youtube

Similarly, Bollywood dancing has become a fad in Indonesia, especially with the younger generation of middle-class families. The songs, music, love, family bonds, traditional values, the element of social drama, love for humanity, and the happy ending of Bollywood films are factors that easily connect with Indonesian fans. Such fans can be found not just in megacities but also in remote islands and rural areas of Indonesia.

It was a revelation when a Bollywood Singing Competition in Indonesia organized in July 2020 under the title “Bollywood Singing Sensation of Indonesia 2020”, attracted a huge number of contestants from across Indonesia. That Bollywood fan following has cut across all strata of Indonesian society was evident from the fact that people from different walks of life, ages, different vocations, and all provinces across Indonesia participated.

What was more astounding was the fact that the competition brought out the hidden singing talents of the Indonesians which were of the highest quality, in terms of voice, control, and delivery. For example, among the winners were graphic designers, firefighters, security guards, students, professionals, many of them hailing from remote villages.

The inclusive and harmonious character of Bollywood has inspired generations of actors and makers of Indonesian films. In an award ceremony, an emerging film star of Indonesia Muhammad Khan even dedicated three awards he received for being Indonesia’s best promising actor to Shah Rukh Khan.

Indonesia too is making efforts to cash in on the Bollywood wave by wooing Indian directors to shoot films in select locales of the country. Parts of several Bollywood and South Indian movies have been shot in places like Bali, Lake Toba, West Java, etc in the last few years. For example, Bheja Fry 2 and Cabaret were partially shot in Bali and Java.

That is why Bollywood can be called one of the “Cultural Sutras- a thread of culture” between India and Indonesia, which is striving to build bridges between the people of the two large nations.

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