Now Switzerland goes gaga over Bollywood

Feb 11, 2006 Alpana Varma

Zurich, Feb 12 (IANS) Bollywood films are growing in popularity in Switzerland with Aamir Khan's "Rang de Basanti" being the latest to draw rave reviews and audience applause.

"We had to wait long till once again a film from Aamir Khan, the star from 'Lagaan', comes to our cinema," said Zuritipp, the cultural news supplement of Zurich's largest selling German language daily Tages Anzeiger.

The film has been accorded three stars in the movie section of 20 Minutes, a tabloid circulated free in trams, buses and trains. This rating puts it on a par with such Hollywood flicks as "Memories of a Geisha" and "Oliver Twist".

Aamir Khan is hugely popular in Switzerland since the "Lagaan" days, during the screening of which he had made an appearance at the Arthouse cinema, on his way back from the Locarno film festival.

Shah Rukh Khan is also widely recognised and his "Paheli" last year was feted with four stars by 20 Minutes, a rare acclaim accorded to only few Hollywood, German, or Swiss films. His other films "Kal Ho Na Ho", "Main Hoon Na" and "Devdas" also stirred frenzied responses.

The "India Everywhere" tagline of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)-sponsored events at the recent World Economic Forum summit in Davos seems to have livened up the streets of Switzerland as one encounters Aishwarya Rai posters in Longines watch ads and Bollywood movie posters.

Surely Bollywood has arrived in Switzerland, enjoying wide popularity, in a trend that goes beyond just a passing fad. The trend is here to stay as many people seem to see Bollywood as an alternative to Hollywood.

"The Swiss want more and more Indian films," said an employee at a cinema about Indian films that are shown in Hindi with German subtitles.

With the increasing popularity of Hindi films, the songs are also creating a fad. Major music stores like Music Hug are flooded with CDs of Hindi film music. There was a time when such music was available only in pirated versions in Pakistani stores for the home-sick diaspora from the sub-continent. Now the most upmarket video stores are dishing out CDs of Indian films in slick packages to the Swiss public.

What is it that appeals to the Swiss people about Hindi films?

A Hindi movie enthusiast, Daniel Meier, said: "Oh, these actresses are so beautiful!"

As for the growing popularity of these films among young women, he said: "How much our women would love to have a man in a typical Bollywood film who loves his woman so much and is not fixated on football and going out for beer with his male peers."

Nicole Sieber, a high school teacher, said: "It's amazing how much they can pack into one film - glamour, dance, moral values, history, emotions."

Sieber, who finished her studies in English literature recently from the university of Zurich, said she had a group of about 8-10 classmates who were all crazy about dancing to Bollywood tunes, besides watching the films.

Yolanda, a student at the University of Zurich, says she likes only films showing traditional Indians.

Switzerland seems to be repaying to Bollywood the popularity it has received as a site for shooting of so many films.

In the summer of 2002, the university held an exhibition titled, "Bollywood and Switzerland". At the inauguration ceremony, Bollywood filmmaker Yash Chopra was honoured for his trend-setting work using Switzerland as the locale for countless dream, dance and honeymoon sequences in his films.

The Swiss tourism industry is grateful to Chopra and other Bollywood directors for popularising the country among Indian tourists, who make up one of the largest tourist groups.

The craze seems to have spilled over to neighbouring Germany as well, where the popular TV channel RTL beams Bollywood blockbusters dubbed in German at prime time. Viewers can download ringtones of different Hindi songs on their mobile phones for three euros per downloading.

The films shown repeatedly include "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai", "Veer-Zaara", "Taal" and "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam".

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Rang De Basanti


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