Yangon, Feb 9 (IANS) A Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 ethnic groups, Myanmar is home to bustling precious stone markets and one of the most impressive Buddhist sites.
But as you move around the country bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand, you don’t feel out of place as Bollywood is extremely popular here.
For, right from the maitre d’hotel and chefs to top corporate honchos, Hindi films appear to be a mania in this country dominated by Buddhists.
“My parents migrated to Myanmar from India after Independence and so I learnt Hindi from them,” local precious stone seller Ma Khin Kyi told IANS.
The mother of two, who never visited India, said Hindi soaps and films, which are quite popular among many Burmese, helped her master Hindi.
Indian cable and satellite television channels Zee TV and Sony Max are popular Hindi channels in Myanmar, she added.
Bollywood stars of yesteryears like Shashi Kapoor and Mithun Chakraborty and heartthrob of youngsters — Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan — rule their hearts too.
Thirty nine-year-old taxi driver Mohammad Shafiq, accompanying the visiting Indian journalists, started humming lyrics “Hum tere bin ab reh nahi sakte” of “Aashiqui 2”.
He said Hindi films and TV soaps were quite popular in the country.
“Most of the Hindi films with Burmese dubbing are released here simultaneously,” Shafiq, who speaks Hindi with proficiency, said.
Many youngsters, though not literate in Hindi, are so crazy about Hindi film love songs that they keep on humming the popular ones.
“India and Myanmar have common heritage and long economic and political relations,” said entrepreneur Mak Patel, who was born and brought up in Yangon.
Octogenarian Patel, who is an Indian citizen and settled in New Delhi, said the craze for the Hindi flicks dates back to the popular song “Mere piya gaye Rangoon” from 1949 movie “Patanga”.
“Even popular satellite channels like Sky Net and MRTV-4 have devoted bigger slots for Hindi movies and serials,” Patel, a former consultant with ONGC Videsh Ltd, said.
Myanmar’s capital, Yangon, has six cinema halls that regularly screen popular Hindi movies.
Strict censorship doesn’t allow Burmese filmmakers to show social and politically driven stories forcing movie buffs to watch Bollywood and Hollywood films through pirated copies.
State-run Central Hotel executive Cheery Tun said she liked Aamir Khan-starrer “3 Idiots” and “PK” so much that she saw them several times.
Energy-rich and resource-rich Myanmar, which got its independence in 1947, is home to a 2.5 million-strong Indian diaspora settled mostly in Yangon and Mandalay.
(Vishal Gulati was in Myanmar at the invitation of Indian Buddhist spiritual leader Gyalwang Drukpa’s global charity ‘Live To Love’. He can be contacted at email@example.com)