Cultural Sutra: A Bollywood Connect Between India and Indonesia

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Medan, Kovermagz – As the largest producer of commercial films in the world, 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. In several countries, especially in erstwhile Soviet Union, Japan, East Carribean and in India’s neighbourhood, Bollywood heroes have become role models for the youth in these regions. The most attractive aspects of Bollywood that captivates people are its songs, music and the actors themselves.

The popularity of Hindi film songs can be gauged from the fact that they are sung and listened to by foreigners who do not even understand the meaning of the lyrics. For example in countries like Russia, Surinam, Nepal, Bhutan, Mauritius, Japan, Guyana, Kazakhstan etc, popular Bollywood songs such as “Mera joota hai Japani,  “Awara Hu”, “Jimmy Jimmy aaja aaja” are sung even today on the streets, by taxi drivers, on informal social occasions and even in some local music concerts. In the 70s, Raj Kapoor and Mithu Chakravarthy became household names in these countries.

In Indonesia, the Bollywood craze has certainly caught on. People on the street routinely mention say “Kuch Kuch hota hai” indicating the immense popularity of that movie. In this country, most people are familiar with big stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh, Maduri Dixit, Rani Mukherjee etc. An Indonesian is even running a Rani Mukherjee Fans Association in Jakarta.

It would also be be safe to assume that today’s youth in Indonesia are keen followers of new Bollywood movies as they easily indentify themselves with modern actors like Ranvir 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 Rawat was indicative of how local people keenly follow Bollywood movies and its actors. There was an outpouring of grief over his death and many Indonesians called for an inquiry into his suicide case. 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 the ‘few minutes of fame’ story but indication of love for Bollywood.

In many Indonesian cities, Indian tourists are sometimes greeted with the names of Bollywood films, characters and the actors. It sometimes becomes an ice breaker or talking point between people of India and Indonesia.

The fan clubs of Bollywood are thriving in Indonesia. Besides their activities, social media has emerged as another way to connect transcending geographical barriers Not just release of a new movie, timings of Indian movie being shown on local television are also mentioned. The twists and turns in the relationship of Bollywood stars are not just the topic of social media pages but even the mainstream media.

In Indonesia it has been noticed that various musical bands singing a range of Bollywood songs with exact pronunciation at social gatherings though they may not understand meaning of the lyrics. The songs, music, love, family bonds, traditional values, love for humanity and happy ending of Bollywood films are factors that easily connect Indonesian fans. Such fans can be found not just in mega cities but also in remote islands and rural areas of Indonesia.

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The inclusiveness and harmonious character of Bollywood has inspired generations of actors and makers of Indonesian films. An emerging film star of Indonesia Muhammad Khan even dedicated 3 of his awards for being best promising actor to Shahrukh Khan. That is why Bollywood can be called one of the “Cultural Sutra- a thread of culture” between India and Indonesia.

To celebrate this Bollywood connect and recognise the talent of Indonesian Bollywood singers and to encourage the work they are doing, the Jawaharlal Nehru India Cultural Centre in Jakarta, in close collaboration with Embassy of India in Jakarta, organised a Bollywood Singing Competition in Indonesia in July 2020 under the title “Bollywood Singing Sensation of Indonesia 2020”.

Recognising the need for physical distancing amid the COVID pandemic, this event was organised in digital format. The event was a revelation as it attracted participation from 13 provinces of Indonesia with more than 100 entries being received.

The competition was held in two categories viz. above 18 years and below 18 years. It was made open to Indian citizens in Indonesia, holdng Kitas. This competition brought out the hidden singing talents of the Indonesians which of the highest quality, in terms of voice, control and delivery.

The winners in the above-18 categories were (1st) Ms.Khaerunnisa H (Makassar, South Sulawesi); (1st runner up) Muh Fadrullah – (Maros, South Sulawesi) and (2nd runner up) Rendi Adiwijaya – Kediri, East Jawa

The winners in the below-18 categories were (1st) Sandhya Jayanthy (Jakarta); (1st runner up) Abhilaksh Sharma (Medan) and (3rd runner up) Vaishnavi Rathi (Jakarta)

What was astounding was not just the number of entries received, but the fact that people from all walks of life, ages, different vocations and all provinces across Indonesia participated. For example, among the winners were graphic designers, fire fighter, students, professionals etc.

The Award ceremony was premiered through the YouTube channel of the Embassy of India on August 09, 2020.  The winners were awarded at a ceremony in Jakarta in which tropies and gifts were handed over to the winners by Ambassador of India to Indonesia and Timor el Este H.E. Pradeep Kumat Rawat. The winners officially became the Bollywood Singing Sensations of Indonesia 2020.

To celebrate the success of the Bollywood Singing Sensation Competition and as a special tribute to the existing friendly relations between two countries, Embassy of India organised a special concert by the ‘Bollywood Singing Sensations of Indonesia 2020’ under the title of “Patriotic Tribute”. This event also celebrated the Independence Days of India and Indonesia who celebrated their respective Independence Days on 15 and 17 August respectively

The event was premiered through the YouTube Channel of the Embassy of India on August 22, 2020.

These two events not just underlined the immense popularity of Bollywood music in Indonesia, but also served to build bridges between the two friendly peoples.

This Artikle by Ms Elsa Malona, Editor of Kover Magazine