It is not an unknown fact that the Bollywood actor and superstar of his time, Raj Kapoor was not only famous in India but around the globe . But something which no superstar could ever match was Raj Kapoor’s fan following in erstwhile USSR. It is said that there was a time when Boris Yeltsin, the former leader of the Soviet union was heard humming the famous title track of the film “Awaara“.
USSR and Bollywood
So what was it that made the superstar so famous on a foreign land? We didn’t even share the same language or culture.
To answer this question we need to go back in time, when World War II was just over. By the end of the WWII, the world had already entered into the Bi-polar state; where the world had two power centres, and thus, the cold war.
We all know that since the Mid-40’s and even before, things were not good between the US and the USSR. What might not surprise us is that both the power centres were so hostile to each other that at one point they stopped any kind of cultural interaction amongst each other. It was then that the world was recognising the films from the Hollywood. Audience for Hollywood films were not only the people from English speaking countries, but also from other countries where English was not their first language. This was something which wasn’t the norm in the Soviet society.
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Anti-Soviet mindset of the US worked well for Indian Film Industry
There was a strong anti-USSR sentiment in Hollywood films. At the same time they also promoted capitalism and imperialism, something the Soviet leaders couldn’t accept. As a result, the Hollywood films got banned in the USSR. Soviet leaders came out with an alternative and started promoting films from other countries. Somehow people could relate a lot with the Bollywood films which became a major help for then.
Though India was part of the NAM and didn’t align with any of the power centres, the Indo-Russian relationship was always good. This helped the Soviet Government to promote Indian films in the USSR. Bollywood films were different in this aspect. According to Russians they shared the same kind of optimism, where in Bollywood films. “The good always wins over the evil” was a concept that resonated well with the Russian minds. It was the time when Raj Kapoor was the biggest star in Bollywood and his films like “Shree 420” and “Awaara” had stories which suited the Soviet communist ideology where the rich were oppressing the poor and the poor hero always fought against the evil “bourgeoisie”.
Raj Kapoor became a symbol of Indo-Russsian unity and helped the ties between the countries grow. Today a generation of Russians are fan of the superstar Raj Kapoor. For them he is a symbol of their fight and aspirations and love for their ally country India.
Edited by: Himesh Saraf