Upper-caste girl meets Dalit boy. They fall in love. Girl’s evil family objects and tries to marry her off. Boy decides he must fight for his ladylove.
It isn’t a Bollywood blockbuster, and it isn’t a television drama from soap diva Ekta Kapoor.
It isn’t even Indian. Welcome to Brazil’s number one soap opera — and first evidence that the relentless march of desi culture has breached a new frontier: South America.
Meet Maya and Bahuan, the protagonists of Caminho Das Indias (India’s Way), a television show that perhaps has Brazilians more excited about India’s caste system than Ronaldinho’s paycheck.
With 60 per cent of the market share, Caminho is currently Brazil’s most watched show. “The show has sparked off a massive interest in Indian culture. People now use words like achha, theek hai and Bhagwan ke liye (for God’s sake) as common slang,” said B.S. Prakash, India’s ambassador to Brazil who’s been inundated with emails from curious Brazilians.
Set in Rajasthan, the show is as authentically Indian as a Barjatya production — except the actors are Brazilians and speak Portuguese, peppered with the Hindi phrases Prakash refers to. To maximise its Indianness, the show’s producers have even added Bollywood-isms to some episodes.
“Like for instance, we don’t show kissing scenes,” said Marcos Schechtman, Caminho’s director. “We cut the scene just at that pivotal moment.”
Schechtman and his crew visited India three times in preparation for the filming, even setting up a workshop with Indian consultants to help the actors understand the ‘Hindu’ way of life.
Caminho’s success is affecting everything and everyone Indian in Brazil.
“Before the show, only people interested in yoga knew about India. Now, we have many more diners coming in. And everyone wants to drink chai,” said Madhava Lila Deva Dasi, who owns a restaurant called Gopala Madhava in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city with 11.1 million people. “Suddenly, Indian costumes and jewellery have become very fashionable.”
For asset manager Amit Maskar (29), a business trip to Brazil turned out to be surprisingly eventful. “I was there only for five days but some 15 people came up to talk to me about the show. One person even played Kajra Re on his phone for me,” said Maskar. “The show is huge there. I’m no Tom Cruise, so it must take a lot for so many hot Brazilian girls to approach me.”