It goes without saying that expatriates are very high on Bollywood

From Peru to Egypt how Bollywood is creating a craze all over the world Image: Facebook/Shah Rukh Khan
Features Monday, April 18, 2016 - 09:47

By Faridoon Shahryar

It was a picture perfect evening at the scenic Kuching Beach in the Sarawak state in Malaysia with the sun gently nestling towards its cozy corner. Me and a group of colleagues from were guests of Malaysian Tourism for covering the ASEAN International Film Festival in Kuching and we were enjoying ourselves in the pristine waters. A bunch of Chinese teenagers were playing with a ball in the water and I strained my ears as I heard them sing ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ and ‘It's the time to disco’ from Kal Ho Na Ho. We spoke to them on camera and they gushed about their undying love for Shah Rukh Khan and a crazy fascination for Bollywood.

Over the years, I have travelled to various parts of the world and interacted with many Bollywood fans from all across the globe and the tryst with Indian movie stars in particular and Bollywood in general is an extremely interesting story.

A few years back we did a live webcast of the music launch of Salman Khan's Dabanng in Delhi. It was not the era of Facebook Live and a live webcast was a rarity. When the reports came in, I was told that the webcast was watched in over 88 countries and it also listed a remote island in South Korea of which I had never heard of in my life. We did a live webcast of a Shah Rukh Khan event a couple of months later and people from more than hundred countries watched it.

I had discovered Twitter then and an acquaintance from Germany told me that she watched the SRK event's live webcast on her mobile phone in London. When I visited Egypt last year for covering India by the Nile festival, I was awestruck by the blazing craze for Amitabh Bachchan. Egyptians treat him like a God. They adore all his films, even his flops are worshipped there. Indian ambassador to Egypt joked during a dinner that if Bachchan contests then he will easily win the presidential elections in Egypt.

It goes without saying that expatriates are very high on Bollywood. A friend of mine in US who is married to an American makes his children listen to Hindi film songs as this is the only way for the kids to get acquainted with their father's mother tongue.

The noteworthy part is that many foreigners crazily follow Bollywood movies and they don't even know the language. Germany has emerged as a signigicant market for Bollywood movies and Shah Rukh Khan has a crazy fan following amongst German nationals. They stand outside his hotel for hours whenever he visits Germany or any other European countries. Shahid Kapoor and Rani Mukherji are very popular in Germany too.

If you search on YouTube then you shall find out almost all the Bollywood films are available with German subtitles and there are dubbed versions too. I have interacted with many Bollywood fans who've travelled for hours to either watch a Hindi film or attend a concert of their favourite star.

Priyanka Chopra is another star who has a big fan following across various nationalities. She has made inroads on the world scene with her international music videos, then Quantico and now she's shooting for Baywatch movie with Dwayne Johnson. When she made heads shine at Oscars this year, it was a proud moment for the Indian movie industry. I have interviewed her many times and recently when I chatted with her on Skype at 3 am in the middle of the night she showed me the snow outside her house in Montreal by moving her laptop. She is still the same person and extremely proud to be India's cultural ambassador.

I have always encouraged fans to ask questions from their favourite stars during my interviews with celebrities for my Chat show Talking Films on Bollywood Hungama. It is an enlightening experience to know what goes on in the minds of fans. At many an occasion I tend to learn something about the stars through the fans that I didn't know earlier. I took a question from a fan in Peru during my interview with Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma for Jab Tak Hai Jaan.

The Bollywood fans in Peru (no Indians at all) loved the interview a lot and the portion where SRK spoke about Peru was played on one of the Peruvian television channels. Within a few days the news came to light that for the very first time an Indian movie will get an official release in Peru and it was Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Since then most of the big films like Dhoom 3, Chennai Express, Dilwale, PK etc. have been getting officially released in Peru.

Aamir Khan fans trended a campaign on Twitter demanding release of Dhoom 3 in Turkey and Yash Raj Fims actually had to go ahead and release the film in Turkey after observing the massive demand. PK released in Chile on April 14 this month. Apart from the traditional regions like USA, Dubai, UK, Australia where Hindi films get a regular release, non-traditional markets like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and China are increasingly getting addicted to Bollywood. A dubbed version of Aamir Khan's PK released in around 5000 screens in China (Now 5000 screens is the total number of available screens for Hindi films in India) and grossed over Rs 100 crores.

We at Bollywood Hungama have been organising Meet and Greet events with Stars in Mumbai for many years now. It has always been a learning experience to watch fans interact with their favourite stars, dancing with them, reciting poems and clicking pictures with them. I joined Twitter five years back and I continued my tryst with fans but this time around they came in from all across the world, spread into many nationalities and even age groups.

I know fans of Salman, Aamir, Shah Rukh, Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh who are much older than the stars whom they idolise but it doesn't stop them from pursuing them. I covered the SLAM Tour in Washington in 2014 and I Interacted with at least three SRK fans who were in their seventies and had travelled quite a distance to be a part of SRK's concert. The love for Bollywood stars or I guess any star doesn't necessarily stem only from physical attraction. It has also to do with the attributes that filter out through interviews, the way they treat people around them. Shah Rukh Khan has a massive fan following and is also said to be one of the biggest movie stars in the world and many of his fans that I've interacted with state that SRK is extremely good with women, he treats them with a lot of respect and dignity. The fans say that they feel protected around him.

When I started interacting with fans of various stars on the social media five years back I had never imagined that the innocuous fan clubs that they were starting then will become such an important and powerful entity in a few years’ time.

Many of the fan clubs have lakhs of followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. @KareenaOnline a fan club of Kareena Kapoor has over 4.9 lakh followers on twitter. @srkuniverse is the biggest fan club of Shah Rukh Khan with over 3.6 lakh followers and spread across many countries and Indian cities. @deepikapfc is Deepika Padukone's fan club with over 3.7 lakh followers. Ranbir Kapoor is not having any presence on any social media platforms but his fan club @ranbirkapoorfc with over 2.8 lakh followers updates with all the latest pictures and information about the reclusive star.

These fan clubs are responsible for most of the trends centred around their favourite stars. They work in close contact with the marketing and publicity teams of their respective stars and they don't charge money for it. It is a selfless exercise. Hrithik Roshan's most trusted fan club @hrithikrules has been shelling out all the latest (reliable) information on the raging case between Hrithik and Kangna. I don't follow many of the big stars on twitter as I don't find their tweets very absorbing but I follow most of the big fan clubs of various stars as they dole out all the information about stars that keeps me updated.

The world is enchanted with India and one of the biggest factors in that is their love affair with Bollywood and the movie stars. As the communication lines are opening up even further, Bollywood will play a far bigger role in being cultural ambassadors for India. It is important that both the stars as well as the Government recognises the immense possibilities that lie ahead. The show must go on and the party is full swing!


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