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Big B wows Israelis and Palestinians

world Updated: Sep 02, 2007 13:11 IST

PTI
Highlight Story

Israelis and Palestinians, who differ on almost every issue, have a common love -- superstar Amitabh Bachchan, who rules over their hearts.

The popularity that Bachchan enjoys here will be envied even by Hollywood stars. Walking through the streets of Jerusalem, one can hear songs from Bollywood movies, especially those starring the Big B.

DVDs of Hindi movies are available in most video shops here, with films starring Bachchan a big hit among locals. A single DVD costs 50 Shekel (Rs 500).

The challenge Bachchan faces here is only from Gabbar Singh -- the character played by late Amjad Khan in the classic film Sholay -- who is equally popular among people of all ages, from teenagers to the elderly.

"I like watching the movies of Amit (Bachchan) and Amjad, I love their action movies," said 22-year-old Yassar, who runs a small shop near the church of Sepalca, where, according to Catholic beliefs, Jesus Christ was crucified.

"My friends and I watch their movies at least once a week," he said.

"Lawaris, Kalia, Deewar, Parvarish, Zanzeer, Sahenshah, Sholay, Black -- we have watched all these movies," he said and started singing, along with one of his friends, the song "Janu meri jaan, mein tere qurban, main tera tu meri jane sara Hindustan" from the movie Shaan.

Asked how he is able to sing Hindi songs though he doesn't know the Indian language, Yassar said: "We memorise songs and dialogues."

"We also like Dharmendra and Jeetendra," he said.

Ahmed, a 43-year-old businessman dealing in carpets, said he has watched Bachchan's movies since he was a teenager and expressed his admiration for the acting legend by reciting the dialogue Mere paas Maa hai from the film Deewar.

"When you go back to India, give my regards to Amitabh Bachchan," he said.

Bezalel Eliahu, a Jew of Indian origin who migrated to Israel from Kochin, said, "when we arrived here, locals recognised us as people from Raj Kapoor's country but now it's Amitabh and Amjad."

Ahron, another Indian who migrated 40 years ago, referred to a song from a Raj Kapoor movie and said, "the trend of Ichak dana, bichak dana has gone."

He said Bollywood songs are very popular here and the title tune from Dil To Pagal Hai can be heard often on Army Radio, which plays at least one Hindi song a day.

Very few people here, however, know about contemporary Bollywood stars like Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshay Kumar though Juhi Chawla has a large fan following in this city.

"Amitabh Bachchan is the overwhelming favourite and most of his old and new films are available at all videomats and DVD shops across the country," said Shai Sampson, Director of Shai Motion Pictures, which distributes Indian films in Israel.

Indian restaurants here too mostly play songs from Bollywood movies.

Two TV channels -- Hot Bombay and Yes India -- that are completely devoted to Indian films have been successfully operating for the past few years.

Hot Bombay has 70,000 subscribers and all of them are not Indians.

An Indian film festival was organised here last week as part of celebrations marking 60 years of India's Independence and 15 years of Indo-Israel ties.

The movies screened during the festival included Black, Dosar, Raincoat, Munnabhai MBBS, Parineeta, Krish, Shootout At Lokhandwala, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd and Shadow Kill.