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Why Are Malaysians So Obsessed with Bollywood Movies?

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Why Are Malaysians So Obsessed with Bollywood Movies?
The obsession is real, people. (Images credited respectively below)
What comes to mind when someone mentions Bollywood movies? Is it the predictable storyline? The dramatic singing and dancing routine? Or the cliché melancholic scenes in the pouring rain that’ll tug your heartstrings and make you weep? Whatever it is, we can all agree that we Malaysians have a great interest and passion in Bollywood movies.

The Bollywood fever in Malaysia started in the mid to late 90s, it was when the three Khans (who are all not related to, by the way) – Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan were at the peak of their careers. It can be said that we were introduced to them through classic masterpieces such as Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998), Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), Ishq (1997), and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995). The rest is history.

Image: www.india.com
Image: Dharma Productions/Yash Raj Films

Throughout the years, Malaysians have developed an obsession for Hindi movies. We believe that almost everyone went through a phase where everyone so immersed with the Bollywood world. It was all about watching the latest Hindi movies, memorising the lyrics to each song even though we didn’t really understand a single word, and making sure we knew every actor or actress on screen. To fuel our obsession even further, the local TV stations started airing Bollywood movies every weekend and this continued on even until today. Apart from weekends, every time the festive season comes, Malaysians would also anticipate reruns of their favourite evergreen Bollywood movies on TV.

The Bollywood industry means serious business, their net worth is literally growing by the minute. It was reported that their revenue could swell up to USD $2.89 billion (RM11.48 biliion) by 2017 from its current worth of USD $2.32 billion (RM9.21 billion). Indian movie producers are urged to create more universally appealing movies to help tap into the international market and further expand their industry.

The top five grossing Bollywood movies of all time according to koimoi.com is living proof that the Bollywood industry are capable of churning mega-hits that appeal to fans worldwide. PK, a 2014 hit comedy movie starring Aamir Khan leads the pack with a total of USD $120 million (RM477.39 million). Trailing behind is Bajrangi Bhaijaan starring Salman Khan with USD $93 million (RM370 million), Dhoom 3 with USD $81 million (RM322.24 million), Sultan with USD $69 million (RM274.66 million) which is currently still screening in cinemas and is said to be a contender to Dhoom 3, and lastly, Chennai Express with USD $63 million (RM250.78 million).

Image: Vinod Chopra Films/Rajkumar Hirani Films
Image: Salman Khan Films/Kabir Khan Films
It has been a while since we had a Bollywood movie that became a phenomenon in our shores. It all changed last year thanks to Rohit Shetty’s Dilwale. Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol – both who are no strangers to Malaysians starred in the hit romantic action comedy. Fans who longed for their on-screen chemistry reacted positively to the movie and suddenly it was like the late 90s all over again. Radio stations kept playing songs from the movie, everyone seemed to be talking about it, and we even dubbed one of their songs – “Gerua” in Malay to appeal more to the local masses.

Image: Red Chillies Entertainment/Rohit Shetty Productions
Image: Red Chillies Entertainment/Rohit Shetty Productions
The movie wasn’t a total flop but it didn’t perform well in Indian cinemas as expected. It was partly due to its release date which was on the same day with Bajirao Mastani, which performed better and took the top spot. The movie also did not receive much rave reviews from critics, with only a 5.4 out of 10 rating on IMDb

Image: Red Chillies Entertainment/Rohit Shetty Productions
Image: Red Chillies Entertainment/Rohit Shetty Productions
Despite the lack of success back home, Dilwale has managed to reach triumphant success on an international scale. It was reported that the movie raked up to USD $25 million (RM99.62 million) worldwide compensating its loss back home and making it Shah Rukh Khan’s most successful overseas blockbuster to date. It was also said that Malaysia was one of the countries that had hugely contributed to its success. Obviously, we weren’t surprised by this. After all, Malaysians are known to have a long term or shall we say everlasting relationship with Bollywood films. 

So, this got us wondering, why are Malaysians so obsessed with Bollywood films? We roughly know what will happen in each movie and know how it’ll end but yet we’re still keen on watching it. Rojak Daily asked a few Malaysian Bollywood fans to find out.

CATCHY SONGS, STORYLINE, AND CAST MEMBERS

Dini Adilah is an ardent fan of Bollywood movies. She thanks Kuch Kuch Hota Hai for being the first movie that introduced her to the Bollywood world. On why she thinks Malaysians are obsessed with it is because of “its storyline, dance moves and songs." She also admits that she knows every song in every Bollywood movie she’s watched before. The cast also plays an important part in her movie selection. “I feel like the actor and actress also plays an important part in making people watch the movie. Personally, I’m more attracted to watch movies starring prominent stars such as Shah Rukh Khan as compared to newcomers."

Image: Dharma Productions
Well, she isn’t the only fan who’s keen on a star-studded cast. Shikin Shamir feels that the combination of an eye-candy cast and their stellar acting skills especially when it comes to the dance routines help appeal to Malaysians. “The dramatic plots, random song breaks, and predictable endings are why I enjoy watching their movies. I can't help it. The songs may be cheesy but they are indeed catchy! Not to mention that even though I know the main hero or heroine won’t die at the end of the movie but that doesn’t stop me from watching it till the very end."

Image: Red Chillies Entertainment/Rohit Shetty Productions
Another fan, Samantha John, told us that she enjoys watching Bollywood movies because of its songs and the stunning costumes. Well, there’s no doubt that Bollywood production houses will pull out all the big guns especially when it comes to its costumes or even the selection of filming locations – just look at Dilwale as an example. 

Bollywood movies may have good-looking cast members and mushy romantic storylines but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t appeal to the male gender. Three friends – Adib Nafami, Hafiz Osman, and Syafiq Azlan all agreed that the main reason they watched the movies is because of their “evergreen songs and unpretentious acting”. “Mann is my all-time favourite movie, it really struck an emotional chord with me, the storyline will really make even the coldest heart melt," added Hafiz.

THE POWER OF SHAH RUKH KHAN

Image: amazingwallpapers.net

Shah Rukh Khan is arguably the most popular Bollywood actor in Malaysia; he has starred in several movies that were shot in our country and also has a Malaysian fan club. His fan club, SRK Universe Malaysia has over 7,000 followers at the time of posting. He was also awarded the “Datukship” title from the government of Malacca back in 2008 for his contributions in promoting Malacca and Malaysia to the world through his films.

Hawa Shafiqa isn’t shy to admit her love for the actor and has watched all of his movies. “Personally, I will consider to watch a Bollywood film depending on whether Shah Rukh Khan is in it or not. Since I live in Terengganu, it is a little bit challenging to watch his movies here due to the lack of cinemas therefore I will try to make an effort to watch it on TV or at the cinema whenever I’m out of town." She also added that Don, which was filmed in Malaysia, is her all-time favourite movie and she’ll never get sick of watching it over and over again.

Image: Excel Entertainment
King Khan’s popularity has transcended throughout the decades, earning him fans from all walks of life and age groups. “I feel that everyone knows Shah Rukh Khan regardless of whether you watch Bollywood movies or not”, tells Azwa Rahman. She feels that among the reasons Shah Rukh Khan is very well known in Malaysia is because of his impressive acting skills and personality. “There’s no doubt his acting is A-class and he has this charm and sweet-looking face that’ll totally knock you off your feet."

A FORM OF ESCAPISM

Siok Hoon has been watching Bollywood movies long before the three Khans ventured into the entertainment business. Among the first few movies that she watched were the ones starring Shashi Kapoor. But it wasn’t Shashi Kapoor that caught her eye; it was the gorgeous hunk named Hrithik Roshan. “Well, I must admit like for most of his fans, I admire him for his looks, those heart-melting green eyes, and his acting, in that order.” Naturally, Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai is one of her all-time favourite movies.

Well, we wouldn't mind getting lost in this beautiful pair of eyes. (Image: cloudmind.info)
On why she thinks Malaysians highly enjoy Bollywood movies...

“Bollywood makes no pretensions about being profound in its usual feel-good format. Bollywood films are filled with drop-dead gorgeous actors and actresses, exotic and glamorous locales, exuberant song-and-dance sequences and non-stop drama – what’s not to love about such ‘luxury’. For me and most Malaysians, they provide a good two to three hours of great escape from the life’s cold, hard realities, packaged in a consistent formula that we’ve come to expect and enjoy. Long live Bollywood!”

Image: Arbaaz Khan Productions

CULTURAL SIMILARITIES

Since we live in a multiracial country, we’re bound to have some similarities with the Indian culture portrayed in Bollywood films. There’s no denying that their food, clothing, and how they deal with certain issues especially the taboo ones can be commonly found in Malaysia which is probably why we can identify with their films. Hafizan Mohd, who is a big fan of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s work, says that because of the likeness in both cultures, there are some of their life ethics that we can relate to. He also believes that among the reasons we love Bollywood movies is because of our love for melancholy stories and also the ability of the actors to capture the emotion that brings sympathy to the audience.
 
Malaysians aren’t the only one who has a penchant for Bollywood movies. Mega-superstar and award winning singer, Beyoncé, have also previously expressed her love for Bollywood movies. She’s a big fan of it and has watched Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Devdas and Lagaan. This goes to show that although the movies may be in Hindi, the storyline is composed in such a way that attracts audiences from across the globe.

Image: Dharma Productions
So, why do you think we are so obsessed when it comes to Bollywood movies? Most of the people we interviewed seem to agree that it all comes down to the songs. Share your opinion in the comment section below. In the meantime, here's one Bollywood song that can't seem to get out of our heads...

 
 
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