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Fiji Indians: For whom Bollywood acts as cultural bridge

Monday - June 11, 2018 4:16 pm , Category : DIASPORA
Savusavu (Fiji) June 11 (IANS) "Laakhon hain yahan dilwale...". That evergreen Mahendra Kapoor number from the 1960s played on at a boutique island resort here -- bringing smiles to a group of Indian tourists.
But more than that it testified to how Bollywood connects the over 40 per cent Indians in this archipelagic state to their roots underlining their lives in what is deemed to be one of the world s happiest nations.
Rajnesh Prasad 40 is clueless about which part of India his family came from. He hasn t visited his ancestral country yet but knows in his heart that he will one day. A driver he speaks Hindi is a fan of megastar Amitabh Bachchan and loves watching Bollywood superstar Salman Khan s movies.
"It is very expensive to travel to India but films are like a bridge... They reduce the gap for us. I saw Tiger Zinda Hai . Mast thhi (It was fun). Salman is a good actor " Prasad preferring to be called "Raj" a la Shah Rukh Khan s character in "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" told IANS here.
"I have also seen Raid " he added as he wished upon getting himself photographed with the film s lead actress Ileana D Cruz who was here to shoot a campaign as ambassador of Tourism Fiji last week.
For Ileana who has visited the Pacific nation earlier too it was heartening to come face-to-face with the fandom for Bollywood.
"It s fascinating. The first time I came here it was a very private visit and each evening I would be surprised when during a kahwa ceremony everyone would get together and sing songs. One day people started singing a Bollywood number one of Rishi Kapoor s old songs and I found it unbelievable... They were singing Bollywood songs and bonding over Sholay " she told IANS.
"So they told me considering there s a massive Indian population here as well they do love Bollywood and its songs. I met a Fijian lady at a restaurant and she said her grandson tells her Please watch Bollywood films please put Bollywood songs ... So it is a great mix of culture here " Ileana said.
"You get the authentic Fijian culture but at the same time Indians will also feel a lot at home because there s that little element of Indianness in it " she added.
The Indian-origin population here is mostly descendants of indentured labourers brought to the islands by Fiji s British colonial rulers between 1879 and 1916 to work on the sugarcane plantations.
Kamal Dev 56 lives here with his wife and three children. He is a huge fan of Mithun Chakraborty and Amitabh Bachchan. There s also 22-year-old Krishna Prasad who says South Indian films are a binding factor in his house. He loved the "Baahubali" franchise.
In all there are 10 theatres across Fiji including those in the capital city Suva and the country s transportation hub Nadi. All the theatres play the latest Bollywood movies.
One theatre in Nadi flaunts a poster of Salman s forthcoming Eid release "Race 3" and colourful CD covers of Hindi films are seen adding colour to the glass window of VCD shops.
Anasyu Chand Assistant Head Teacher at Rampur Primary School Navua District here says Indians here are hooked to Hindi television shows as well.
" Kumkum Bhagya Mere Sai Vighnaharta Ganesha Kundali Bhagya ...we watch it all " said Chand who said teaching spoken Hindi to all students -- Indian-origin or Fijian -- was compulsory at their school till fourth grade."
She said Ramayan was recited at the school every Tuesday. "We celebrate all festivals -- whether Eid Easter Diwali Ram Navmi or Janmashtami in a big way like they do in films. It is very important for us that our new generation knows about India and all things Indian " said Chand who draped a sari especially to meet Ileana adding: "I feel the emotional touch... Jab hamaare desh ka koi aata hai (when someone from our homeland comes)."
(The writer s trip to was at the invitation of Tourism Fiji. Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at radhika.b@ians.in)

--IANS rb/hs