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The world’s searching for us… really?

Following on some previous observations on Indian cinema abroad (for example, the revenues earned by Hindi films in UK, read here, or how much newspapers in the Western world report on Bollywood, read here, or the “popularity” of Bollywood in Africa, read here) Kuhu Tanvir commented that Bollywood was reportedly quite popular in Africa. Now, I don’t question the fact that Hindi films are screened in parts of Africa, thanks to the ethnic Indians in various countries there. Like Hollywood films, these films too are dumped and take advantage of a weak local film industry (though one should not discount the video films made in Nigeria).

Some urban Indians have an amusing tendency to engage in hyperbole when it comes to the country’s achievements. These usually start off as emails or word of mouth and acquire an authenticity that beggars belief. Patriotism is manifested in various ways. In the case of exalting the achievements of Indians (and India) some educated Indians can throw their keen minds out of the window. For some it is a matter of pride to email friends, family, and everybody on their address book “facts” about India, for some others it is a cause for acute embarrassment. Especially when legislators quote hyperbolic achievements of Indians in Parliament (read this Outlook magazine report here). Now, usually I would smile and dismiss such nut jobs, but such is the power of these urban legends that one eventually falls for the temptation to take pot shots at them.

So, Kuhu mentioned:

a colleague pointed out the most interesting development as far as Bollywood stars are concerned…apparently Somalia does more google searches on bollywood than even we do here in India. Hindi movies are a huge rage there, and in particular Salman Khan…strange!

Ahem… well, if her colleague had bothered to check Google Trends or Google Insights, she/he would have been wiser. Anyway, here are the facts.

  1. Indians search the most of Bollywood, followed by Pakistan. Basically these two countries make up the entire search community for Bollywood.
  2. And who searches for Amitabh Bachchan? No prizes there, India again!
  3. How about Hollywood? Here comes the biggest surprise — India!!!

See stats below:

Country-wise search for Bollywood (click to enlarge)

Country-wise search for Bollywood (click to enlarge)

Country-wise search for Bachchan (click to enlarge)

Country-wise search for Bachchan (click to enlarge)

Country-wise search for Hollywood (click to enlarge)

Country-wise search for Hollywood (click to enlarge)

The question really is why engage in such constructions of the self? The answer that appeals to me best is:

But why lie? Dipankar Gupta, a sociologist at Jawaharlal Nehru University, says such e-mails come from a “pathological feeling of inadequacy” that pushes NRIs to clamour for recognition — Dasgupta, Debarshi (2008) ‘You’ve Got Mail, & It’s Fictional’ Outlook Aug 18.

Now, if you want some really interesting and eye-opening web statistics, click here and here.

Update 18 Aug: Apart from Google Trends, you can also look up web search statistics at Google Insights.


1 Paul Aitken { 08.17.08 at 3:30 pm }

Great post! Funny, before I finished reading it, I had already jumped over to Google Trends and performed the searches you linked to at the end of the post 😉

I come from Canada, which is a country similarly full of hyperbole when it comes to achievement on the world stage. This has been brought into high relief recently because of the Olympics and the Canadians rather poor showing in the initial stages. There is rampant speculation as to why we are doing so poorly, but the moment a Canadian wins a medal, there is mass media celebration of the great achievements of a Canadian, and therefore ALL Canadians.

While to a certain extent hyperbolic accounts of achievement may come from feelings of inadequacy (and certainly this is felt acutely by countries that are competitive but perhaps not dominant in a particular arena), I also think that it derives from the desire to tell ourselves stories about ourselves. In a way the stories allow us to remain immortal, to ensure that we carry on (as nation, as a people with a common heritage, etc.) Perhaps that is one reason to engage in constructions of the self?


2 Kishore Budha { 08.18.08 at 12:46 am }

Paul: I agree with you. There must be more than one reason why we construct narratives of the self. How else would we have any coordinates. I completely take that point. At the evil end are all those fascists and right wing nut jobs and on the other end are educated folk who engage in such narrations. To get excited about the representation of one’s country in a US or British newspaper is mostly harmless stuff, but sad and amusing at the same time.

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