Bollywood Reaches the Ends of the Earth

Is Indian musical cinema challenging Hollywood’s world-wide pop culture dominance? Perhaps not in most places, but the 4-hour, song-and-dance-filled melodramas have fans in some pretty unexpected parts of the world.

Shashank Bengali, the East Africa correspondent for McClatchy, has come across a growing number of young Ethiopians who have embraced Bollywood films and musical numbers even though they are also exposed to a barrage of American hip hop music and action films.

There has always been a small market in Africa for Bollywood movies. Indian immigrants in South Africa and Kenya are a ready audience for these cinematic imports. However, a recent trend shows that the movies have been embraced by non-Indian audiences throughout the continent. Bollywood had a large following in Somalia until its films were outlawed by the militant Islamic leadership.

While the popularity of Indian cinema in Africa might not be a signal of the end of Hollywood, it does show that there are other cultural forces out there besides the ones created by Spielberg and Bruckheimer. It is also welcome news for closet Bollywood fans in the US, who can now travel to Africa without having to hide their secret vice.