The 1951 Raj Kapoor starrer, Awaara has been seen and enjoyed by so many across the globe that it may well be the "most successful film in the history of cinema at large".
Dina Iordanova, professor at the University of St Andrews, and other experts cite several texts and anecdotal evidence to state in a special issue of the journal "South Asian Popular Cinema" that Awaara may be a candidate for the title of the "most popular film of all times".
The journal's latest issue is devoted to mapping the career of Indian films in various national contexts outside South Asia. The issue includes several papers exploring the popularity of Indian films in places such as Greece, Bulgaria, Africa and Turkey. The papers cast fresh light on the popularity of Indian films beyond the better-known overseas markets such as the US and Britain.
|St Andrews University has stated that the film is a truly enduring global hit.|
The special issue is titled
Indian Cinema Abroad: Historiography of Transnational Cinematic Exchanges
and is co-edited by Iordanova and Dimitris Eleftheriotis of Glasgow University. Iordanova and others write extensively on
in the issue.
Recalling her Bulgarian origins and childhood, Iordanova told IANS: "I knew Indian films long before I had met any living Indian. We knew next to nothing of India and the Indians; we did not know much of the personality of Raj Kapoor either.
"However, the fascination with a film like Awaara (Brodyaga in Bulgarian) was everlasting; everybody knew the actor's ever-singing dancing persona. Nothing could match up to the experience of watching Awaara; this film was more fascinating than any other I can remember.
"Even though repeat viewing is not typical for the cinema going practices of Bulgarians, many admit that they have seen Awaara numerous times. Why such fascination? The copy that we were watching was fairly old; the film was overlong and markedly over-the-top. Yet it was so absorbing.
"It was a film that, in an unabashed manner, revealed a whole different world where preposterous melodrama came across as completely legitimate (and thus mesmerizing), where improbable misapprehensions triggered infinite suffering and obstinate injustices, where people were not ashamed to be overemotional and were solemnly preoccupied with enchanting adoration.
"It was the candid praise of love and affection in the Indian movies that was truly enchanting for us... Awaara remains a truly enduring global hit, yet one that is understudied and under-researched."
Iordanova and Eleftheriotis wrote in the journal: "Indian cinema was internationally popular for a significant period, starting in the 1930s and peaking around the 1960s. There were massive exports of Indian films and massive international interest in it."
Iordanova wrote that it was difficult to think of any other film from the 1950s that was seen in so many countries and was as widely acclaimed as Awaara. Most film history books, she added, analysed other films and mentioned Awaara" only in passing, "yet I cannot think of any other film from that period that would have enjoyed such popular success transnationally".
Iordanova said: "At this oldest university in Scotland (University of St Andrews), we are making sure Indian cinema is properly represented in our teaching and we regularly screen classical and new Indian films for our students."
A British academic journal devoting a special issue on Indian cinema is the latest in the growing coverage of Indian films in the popular and academic press. British newspapers regularly publish reviews of new Indian films and report the number of Indian movies that figure in the top ten films in terms of box office collections.