Narendra Modi’s Ahmedabad qualified as India’s idea of ‘better city, better life’, the theme of Shanghai World Expo 2010. But Amitabh Bachchan, Gujarat's brand ambassador, has been left out in the cold.
China’s fascination for Bollywood beyond Raj Kapoor’s 'Awaraa hoon' – most over 50 in Shanghai know the song – made the Indian Trade Promotion Organization (ITPO) rely heavily on the Hindi film industry’s glamour quotient.
Kapoor does figure as one of the ‘ambassadors of harmony’ under the art and culture section in the bamboo-domed Indian pavilion. So do Dilip Kumar, Danny Dengzongpa – strangely representing the Northeast – Kamal Hassan, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, “a superstar of Indian cinema today."
It was, as officials said, a bid to let China come out of the RK fixation and swing with SRK. But the generation shift flew over the Big B phase.
The organizers, though, have created space for Bachchan’s daughter-in-law along with Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor. But the ‘Bachchan’ is conspicuously missing from Aishwarya Rai’s name.
ITPO officials said there’s nothing political – Bachchan isn’t in the Congress’ good books – about it. “The Bureau of International Exposition in Paris chose the theme, and Ahmedabad along with Puduchery was chosen to showcase the continuity of Indian civilization and how it is adapting fast to modern technology,” said ITPO Chairman Subas C Pani in Shanghai on Sunday.
Pani added that Bollywood’s China circus will start rolling in July.
But Bachchan-less Bollywood, organizers claimed, hasn’t taken the sheen away from the Indian pavilion going by the average footfall of 35,000 a day. This is one-tenth of 500,000 visitors – 99 per cent are local Chinese – who throng to the World Expo.
Each visitor has to wait at least 3 hours to get into the Indian pavilion. On Sunday, they had to wait longer for President Pratibha Devisingh Patil and her entourage to complete their visit.
“I was impressed by the green technology that India showcased. I was told that the dome has been made jointly by Indian and Chinese architects. This is another example of living in harmony,” she said before moving on to the Chinese pavilion separated from the Indian by a skywalk in the Asian Square of the exposition site at Pudong, the newer part of Shanghai across river Huangpu.
Later in the day, the President inaugurated the bust of Rabindranath Tagore at the intersection of Maoming Road and Nanchang Road in Shanghai. Tagore had spent some time with Chinese poet Xu Zhimo at his residence close by.