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Bollywood charms Ethiopia

Bollywood fever is sweeping Africa’s political capital, with a week-long festival of 14 films, including blockbusters like Sholay and 3 Idiots, enthralling cinegoers.

The films are being screened at The National Theatre in downtown Addis Ababa. The Indian Film Festival, being advertised through the catchline ‘Come, fall in love with the magic of Bollywood’, kicked off with a screening of 3Idiots on 20th May. The film had powerful resonance with Ethiopians as the film is about the failure of a regimented education system.

“I just loved it. We could identify with the story as everybody has a stake in the education system. The music was great,” Mathew Tadesse, who teaches at a high school, said.

Most Ethiopians remember being taught by Indian teachers and their love for Indian music and dance goes back to their childhood days. Language is no bar as the movies are being shown with subtitles.

There was a mini stampede when Sholay, the all-time Bollywood hit action thriller made in 1975, was screened at the 1,200-capacity hall.

“I loved the dialogues and dishum-dishum (fighting),” said Ellene Medhin, a 20-something student who has been sold on the charms of Bollywood since her teens.

“There was a virtual stampede at the screening of Sholay,” said Navdeep Suri, joint secretary in charge of public diplomacy division in India’s external affairs ministry, who conceived of the festival.

Ethiopians can’t seem to get enough of Bollywood, with two shows being held every day since 20th May.

Romantic song-and-dance extravaganzas are as popular with Africans as action thrillers. The selection of films is an eclectic one, including critically acclaimed films like Taare Zameen Par and Iqbal, blockbusters such as Gadar and Koi Mil Gaya, as well as those that didn’t do too well back home in India – Yaadein and Paheli, for instance.

The films struck an emotive chord with the audience that included teenagers as well as the nostalgic elderly who had seen classics like Mera Naam Joker.

In fact, Bollywood is an old weakness Ethiopians readily confess to, an affair that cuts across national boundaries in Africa. From Marrakesh to Maputo and from Dakar to Durban, Indian films and music are a rage.

Legends like Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar to contemporary icons like Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan are equally popular not only in Ethiopia but across Africa.

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