It’s no secret that Bollywood movies continue to capture the hearts of audiences around the world. The recent overseas fame of actresses Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone highlight just how pervasive the spread of Bollywood has become, with streaming sites like Netflix allowing even more users to enjoy these films.
Despite its Indian roots, it’s in Malaysia where Bollywood movies are truly finding their second home. Rojak Daily traces this popularity all the way to the 1990s, a time period when Bollywood actors Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, and Shah Rukh Khan were featured in movies left and right. Throughout this period, they churned out classics such as Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Ishq that are still watched to this day.
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Escapism and local pride
Rojak Daily continues by highlighting Bollywood as a form of escapism, where audiences can immerse themselves in three-hour long movies full of dance and song. For Malaysians, however, there’s another element to this appeal, and it’s that many Bollywood movies are set in Malaysia. So big is Bollywood’s impact that Shah Rukh Khan was bestowed the title of Datuk in 2008 for his contributions to Malaysian tourism through his movies.
Tourism Malaysia’s Kabali package, where visitors tour around the sites featured in the 2016 thriller Kabali, shows that even the government is taking notice of Bollywood’s popularity. Around 80 percent of the film was shot in Malaysia, predominantly featuring Kuala Lumpur and Carey Island. Having the IIFA Awards ceremony in Kuala Lumpur in 2015 shows just how strong this link between Bollywood and Malaysia is, even for those within the industry.
Malaysia’s Indian demographic
It’s also important to note Malaysia’s huge Indian population. Indians comprise one of the largest ethnic groups within Malaysia, and the South East Asian country is one of the top destinations for Indian tourists to visit annually.
These numbers bolster Bollywood’s popularity within Malaysia by granting a sense of familiarity within each film. Bollywood movies provide something both familiar and exotic for Malaysian audiences. Even if a movie was not set in Malaysia, the cultural tropes and sayings within these films still manage to strike a chord with Malaysian audiences.
Bollywood and a more modern outlook
Last but not least, Bollywood’s presence in Malaysia speaks to the country’s more cosmopolitan, global-facing outlook. Such modernism is already on the rise across various industries. Expat Bets notes that the Pahang’s Resorts World Genting remains a popular destination, with the casino industry serving as a perfect example of where cultural tastes are moving forward. This shift is also true of Bollywood.
Bolder and brasher Bollywood movies find a home in Malaysian audiences, despite guidelines imposed by the government. Malaysian censors are still in the process of loosening their guidelines. In fact, censors cut out a kiss at screenings of Dil Dhadakne Do. The difference between government censors and audience tastes shows how Bollywood can track this movement away from traditional Malaysian codes.
While Bollywood remains popular around the globe, its close link to Malaysia suggests that the industry has found its second home within Malaysian shores.