Monday, May 14, 2007

Chinese love Aishwarya & Shah Rukh Khan

With a growing interest in Indian life and movies in China, Bollywood stars like Aishwarya Rai and Shah Rukh Khan have become household names in China.

Aishwarya Rai may not know the Chinese word for heart. But thousands of xingzangs are beating for her. A-she-wa-ya, as she is fondly called by Chinese lads, has also intrigued the generally atheistic urban Chinese through the elaborate rituals that preceded her marriage. She, along with Shah Rukh Khan (wo ai SRK, the college girls say when they want to proclaim their love for him), have mesmerised the Chinese enough to inspire websites.

There is growing curiosity in China about Indian social and family life, and Hindi films, against all expectations, are becoming a cultural window. Photographs and stories about the Aishwarya-Abhishek marriage were prominently featured in all major newspapers and channels across China. The lives of a few stars, especially Aishwarya and Shah Rukh, are defining the Indian way to the Chinese.

"We pay a lot of attention to Indian culture in our website. We have a brainstorming session for each movie we feature on the site. Some of our members are very knowledgeable about India," says Jie Wang, a 28-year old beautician, who runs a website on Shah Rukh Khan. She has invested her own money in the site while other fans contribute articles and pictures. The site has 13,159 registered members, but there is an unaccounted population of unregistered surfers who regularly visit it.

An impassioned debate among some Chinese youth today is whether Aishwarya is better than Zhang Ziyi, the Hollywood sensation who has acted in films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Memoirs of A Geisha. Aishwarya’s performance in Mistress of Spices is now compared to Ziyi’s Hollywood performances and there are partisan views of who is better. Some Aishwarya fans say that they would like to see her in an Indo-China joint production, paired against one of the local male stars, Li Lian Jie or Huang Lei.

Needless to say, Hindi films are not part of the mainstream consciousness in China as Hollywood, Japanese or Korean films are. But increasingly, Hindi films are being noticed. State-run television channels like CCTV are stirring up a special feeling of xi ying (attraction) for Hindi movies by showing films like Devdas and Asoka with Chinese subtitles. Devdas was shown several times on Chinese television and is regarded as some kind of a TV hit.

DVDs of Hindi movies are available in Beijing and Shanghai, but the main access is through the net where there is a happy and rampant copyright infringement. If Hindi films have to rise in China, the film industry has to ignore this infringement.

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