An Israeli closure tightening its noose, internecine factional fighting and warnings of an impending humanitarian disaster have had little effect on the appetite of Gaza population for Bollywood blockbusters, a popular medium which lets them forget their hardships.
"Bollywood films are in demand. People do not have money to hire DVDs these days but there are some who have been quite addicted to Hindi films and they continue to be so," Ihad, a seller at Master of Movies DVD store in Gaza City told PTI over phone.
"Hindi films shown by different TV channels however continue to attract large audiences. There are several of them and Amitabh starrers can bring all activities to a halt on Fridays and Saturdays," he added.<b1>
Several channels on the Arabsat and Nilesat networks show Hindi films a few times a week. Hindi films shown on Bahrain 55, Infinity, Ritmo, Kuwait Channel 2 and Eritrea channel are quite popular among the Gaza populace.
Bollywood's popularity cuts across age and gender among the Palestinians in Gaza. "In my family there isn't one single person who is not glued to the TV for the entire duration of a Hindi film. We don't evn need an interval and you know that Hindi films are not that short," Ayman Abid said.
"You will be surprised to know that these days when people have nothing to do and are in full time leisure mould, some of the densely populated refugee camps come to a standstill on the weekends during the screening of Hindi films by TV channels", Abid added.
Arshad, 15, said that the difficulties arising out of Israeli closure on the Gaza Strip and shut down of most of the businesses has led to an increase in Hindi film viewership, which provide an escape from the hardships of the real world.
"It is so colourful and lively. It won't be an exaggeration if we say that Hindi films are these days bringing us relief from all sorts of hardships. They make us forget about all the worries for some hours", he said.
Big B is the overwhelming favourite of Gazans and Sholay the all-time big hit which is shown several times every year by all the TV channels.
"Amitabh Bachchan is synonymous of Indians. Every Indian face in Gaza is greeted with calls of Amitabh Bachchan. There is a lot of appeal for Indian culture in the local population, who treat Indians with respect" Alka, an Indian who is married to a Palestinian, said.
Most of the DVD stores in Gaza have a good collection of Hindi films and it would be rare to see an Amitabh Bachhan starring film missing in the stores, she said.
"You would be surprised to know that sometimes we are lucky enough to even get DVDs of new releases. This week we saw Om Shanti Om. It was quite in demand and I had to wait for a while before I could get my hand on it," Lubna, another Indian woman married to a Palestinian said.
"While waiting for Om Shanti Om we saw Sanjay Dutt's Zinda, Munnabhai MBBS, Lage Raho Munnabhai and Shootout at Lokhandwala. However, there is so much demand for new Hindi film releases that we have to be on our toes to get them immediately," she said.