With hundreds of films releasing annually, Bollywood is the largest centre of film production in the world. Growing up in India, it is easy to find hardcore Bollywood fans who know all the lyrics of the latest songs on the charts or burst into a movie dialogue in the middle of a conversation. However, the popularity of these movies over time has reached across borders to Indonesia’s far-flung 16000 plus islands.
From the early nineties where Indonesian bands grooved to party tracks to dialogues from latest movie blockbusters, Bollywood has come a long way in this country. Any Indian who has visited this beautiful country has surely being a witness to being greeted by loud shouts of Bollywood’s celebrity names. One name that unfailingly keeps cropping up is for their most beloved star, Shah Rukh Khan.
A mention of this superstar is more likely to make you win local friends locally in Indonesia than anything else. At a time when Bollywood had just opened to the outside world, Shah Rukh Khan was a rising star back home. With movies like Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, the Badshah of the film industry was delivering one hit after the other. Not just restricted to the main cities, it isn’t uncommon to hear a locale in some remote part of the country happily quoting “Bade bade shehron mein aisi chhoti chhoti baatein hoti rehti hai, Senorita”.
Being the most recognised star in Indonesia today has earned him appreciation not just from locals, but also Indonesian superstars who credit their success to him. In a recent incident, an Indonesian actor, Muhammad Khan thanked him in his speech after he won an award at Citra 2019 and even sang his song from one of his earlier movies.
A few years earlier, an Indonesian fan who had travelled to India waited outside his house for three days in hopes of meeting her idol. After incessantly tweeting the actor, she finally caught his attention and he greeted her warmly on his way to work. The 27-year old fan couldn’t care less for her comfort or food as she waited patiently outside his house all the time.
The reason for this popularity is because of many factors. While Western films focus on the intellectual aspect, challenging the mind and imagination, Bollywood films are mainly about the heart and human emotions. Portraying traditional aspects of family life, they present a more identifiable viewing experience to Indonesians. Even in movies with an urban aspect, there is a balancing act towards traditional values. The larger than life fantasy of modern and traditional values is what strikes them the most.
While the older generation was enthralled by the likes of Amitabh Bachchan and even Raj Kapoor, the younger generation is influenced majorly by Shah Rukh Khan. The theme song of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was adapted by many Dangdut singers, which is a genre of Indonesian folk music. Further aided by local fan clubs and several large production houses headed by Indonesians of Indian descent has transformed the way India is perceived in Indonesia.
While the superstar is yet to announce his next project, don’t be surprised to find locals asking you about it the next time you visit the country.