Saturday, March 18, 2006

Bollywood in China

I first learned about Hindi film music's popularity in China when I met a fellow grad student's mom who was visiting from Shanghai. The conversation presently turned to music, and to my utter amazement, she began singing a song (translated version) from a Raj Kapoor movie. Needless to say, I was fascinated at meeting someone who had been part of a generation that got to enjoy Indian cinema in China.

If someone gave me the money, I'd be thrilled to document China's encounter with Hindi cinema in the decades following the cultural revolution.*sigh* For now, I'll just point you all to a story in this week's Sunday magazine of The Hindu:

"The first time I heard a Hindi movie song I was four-years-old and I remember thinking it was music from heaven, so beautiful that I could listen to it again and again," recalls 24-year-old Hou Wei. She smiles dreamily and launches into a word-perfect rendition of Chadti Jawani Meri, from the 1971 Asha Parekh-Jeetendra film "Caravan".

But Hou Wei is not just any starry-eyed, Bollywood-infatuated youth. She is in fact one of Beijing's hottest entertainers having in the last couple of years become a sought-after performer at parties, weddings and restaurants, where bedecked in sparkling saris, she belts out a wide range of Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu songs.

Hou Wei will be traveling to India this month to "learn more about the culture" and to "find a suitable teacher."
"I have never had any formal training in Indian music and I feel this is a big disadvantage," she says. "But I have big dreams and if I try hard enough I can achieve them."

Wouldn't it be terrific if Hou Wei was roped into a film-music based TV-show? How about pairing her up with a music director in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa?!


  • My chinese housemate had once claimed that SRK was her "Hero No. 1". She had also seen early Hindi movies - from her description it seemed like Raj Kapoor and Nargis movies!

    By Anonymous Mandira, at 3/20/2006 9:27 AM  

  • I once met this woman from Ukraine when I was in Tampa doing my MA. She recalled watching Raj Kapoor movies and said that as an adolescent, she worshipped Amitabh Bachchan in his angry young man movies. I decided to help her relive her crush and we sat up and watched Amar Akbar Anthony one night after her kids had had gone to bed. I guess those were the days of Indo-Russian cultural exchanges, Russian book fairs in Indian cities and cultural performances by Indian artistes in Russia and eastern Europe.

    By Blogger Durga, at 3/20/2006 10:25 AM  

  • Stories of Big B fans abound - in the late 70s, it is said, many an Israeli schoolgirl carried a picture of the angry young man. But the best story of "devotional excess" I've heard is of Zarina Fernandes. Zarina says she saw Bachchan in "Anand" when she was 17, and decided right away that he was the man for her. If she couldn't marry him, she'd never get married. Modern day Meera Bai and all that. Check out this story if you haven't already:

    By Blogger Aswin, at 3/20/2006 2:38 PM  

  • More links about Bollywood in China in this post at Kaiju Shakedown:

    By Anonymous Casey, at 4/21/2006 12:46 AM  

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