Why was Bollywood icon Raj Kapoor so popular in Russia? The answer to this question was unexpectedly given by an old Russian lady who said it was the optimism of the charismatic actor that inspired them to brave through hard times.
"In early fifties, just after the devastating war with Germany, the country was still in ruins we were poor and our life was full of privations and shortages," said the old lady during 'Retrospective of Raj Kapoor films' organised in the provincial city of Tver, 200 kms from here.
But when we saw greater hardships being faced by the poor from the country (India) with a smile, it gave us optimism. So after watching Awara and Shri 420, Raj Kapoor became a symbol of optimism for the Soviet people, she added.
Even prominent figures like ex-President Boris Yeltsin and powerful Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov could be heard humming Awara hoon song from the first Indian movie ever shown behind the Iron curtain.
According to project coordinator Ludmila Sekacheva, there is immense interest in Indian films in Russia, because they share common spiritual values. "Every Indian movie gives the message of 'victory of good over evil'. This is the yearning of every Russian soul," Sekacheva said. Bollywood movies are also source of optimism for the younger generation of Russians and they take inspiration from their Indian counterpart's life shown in the films. "Bollywood movies show the inherent challenges and opportunities of the market economy for youth, of which we were not aware of in our Soviet-era childhood," a 28-year-old office worker Lena said.