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Bollywood welcome with open arms – please

And now it is the turn of Israel to welcome “Bollywood”.

“We welcome Bollywood producers whole-heartedly, with open arms and hearts, to shoot in Israel,” Israel’s Ambassador to India David Danieli said in an interaction with PTI journalists here. (from Hindu)

It is amusing when countries welcome Bollywood with “open arms”. What exactly do they mean and what do they want? Imagine saying, “we welcome Hollywood with open arms”. It sounds like a cave-in, leaving it open to charges of cultural imperialism. On the other hand, “Bollywood” has a non-threatening ring to it. Maybe it is the overarching image of Gandhi that diplomats have in mind when they make such statements. Or maybe that is what bored Ambassador’s in India do in the hope of hobnobbing with stars (imagine the pointless meetings with Indian bureaucrats).

Jokes aside, the shooting of Indian films abroad should be understood at at multi-layered levels. On the face of it there is curiosity and some awareness in the local economy and press. If done on a sustained basis, it shoud raise the salience of Indian “cinema” and hopefully a greater level of engagement with Indian films beyond the popular film form.

However, it is not as easy as it sounds. This potential can be easily squandered if the local media frames it as some exotic other, something to be looked at rather than engaged with. A payback for the kind of othering that Hindi cinema does when it uses foreign locales for shoots. This kind of engagement may not only be detrimental to circulation of popular cinema abroad but could also affect other cinemas as they might be lumped into this basket called “Indian cinema”.

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