Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Kazakhstan: Who The Hell Is Shah Rukh Khan?

It seems Mithun Chakraborty's Disco Dancer, originally released in 1982, is still rocking Kazakhstan, as are other Indian classics.

Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, aaja, aaja, the song from Mithun Chakraborty's 1982 blockbuster Disco Dancer is a favourite with Marina Maximova and many others from her country, Kazakhstan. But current heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan is unknown there.

Marina, editor-in-chief of Almaty TV, cannot understand Hindi but loves Mithun's films as well as those of Bollywood legend Raj Kapoor.

"The films are so sensitively made, so beautiful," Maximova said in Russian, which was translated by her colleague Irina Kunanbayeva.

"Indian films are very popular in our country. We have film clubs where the films are shown," Maximova told IANS here.
That Shah Rukh Khan is relatively unknown in Kazakhstan (and probably true for other former Soviet states, including Russia) is quite telling. Some will say Kazakhs lack the sophistication necessary to watch the style of cinema actors like Shah Rukh Khan inhabits. Other people, including me, say that Bollywood has degraded creatively while becoming technically superior.

I've given up watching Bollywood films on a regular basis somewhere during the early 1990s when Bollywood took a turn for the worse with a slate of unwatchable, overly saccharine, song-filled, marriage-oriented films. Since then I have been watching Bollywood films on-and-off, and only on the recommendation by friends and family.

I grew up watching Bollywood films with my parents, who use to rent two or three movies a week from the local Indian store. Most were current releases, but my father would often rent films he saw in his youth. Raj Kapoor was a standard-bearer, and Amitabh Bachchan films of the 1970s and 1980s-before he foolishly entered politics-made me a fan for life. Like the Kazakhs, it is these films that I remember and often pine for.