We all know that Bollywood films are popular among the India diaspora abroad, including that in Russia, who have grown up with Bollywood, bearing witness to the cross-cultural appeal of Indian movies.
But then, Bollywood films are particularly popular in the former Soviet Union, and several Bollywood films have been dubbed into Russian, and shown in prominent theatres across Russia.
Thanks to the age old Russia-India friendship, a tourism-focused Russia (dealing with an economic downturn) has already kept ‘India on a special shelf’. This despite nearly a million Chinese tourists flocking annually to Russia.
While Russia might be keen to get more Indian filmmakers to shoot in Russia, they are still in the process of creating a suitable infrastructure to facilitate hassle-free film shoots in the country.
Why are Indian Films So Popular in Russia
Back in the soviet days, Hollywood and films by other Western countries were banned in the Soviet Union. And because there was no means of other cheap entertainment, films from Bollywood shot into the limelight.
They provides the Soviets with a cheap source of entertainment, and were also non-controversial and non-political.
Besides, our movies at that time focused more on partition and the struggle for freedom from colonial rule, which the struggling masses of Russia could relate to.
That explains the popularity of our films, and also why our relationship with the former USSR is so strong.
Raj Kapoor, in particular, was very popular in Russia, with the film ‘Mera Naam Joker’ running to packed houses in Russia (‘Mera Naam Joker’ also starred Russian actress ‘Kseniya Ryabinkina’).
Russian Army Para troopers dance and sing on ‘Mera Joota Hai Japani’, a classic Bollywood song of the legendary Raj kapoor.
Apart from Raj Kapoor’s classics such as Awara and Shree 420, other Bollywood films that are most popular in Russia are ‘Sita aur Gita’ (starring the dream-girl ‘Hema Malini’) and ‘Disco Dancer’ (starring Mithun da, with super-hit music by Bappi-da).
After watching ‘Sita aur Gita’, children in Moscow courtyards tried to repeat the circus tricks of Hema Malini. They copied her tightrope act and her daring manner of behaviour and speech.
However, its was Mithun Chakraborty who became a superstar for the new generation, with Disco Dancer. The dance halls at almost all Soviet summer resorts in the 80s resounded with the sounds of ‘I Am a Disco Dancer’. At some places, fanatics even requested the song to be played ten times over.
For all those ‘I’m a Disco Dancer’ fans, here comes the song, which was sung by Vijay Benedict and composed by Bappi Lahiri. Enjoy!
Bollywood Movies Shot in Russia
Before we discuss further the popularity of Bollywood films in Russia, lets have a look at Bollywood movies shot in Russia.
The popular ones include: Khoon Maaf, Agent Vinod, Lucky: No Time For Love, Khiladiyon Ka Khiladi, Players.
Lucky: No Time For Love (Salman Khan and Sneha Ullal, who resembles quite a lot like Aishwarya Rai) & Players have a lot of footage shot in this country. In fact, ‘Lucky: No Time for Love’ was shot entirely in this country.
Here are some of the popular Russian locations seen in our movies.
Church Of The Savior On Spilled Blood, Saint Petersburg, Russia
The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia
Saint Isaac Cathedral, St. Petersburg, Russia
Catherine Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia
All Russia Exhibition Centre, Moscow, Russia
Among the several Russian fans of Indian movies, ‘WhatsApp’ Co-Founder Jan Koum is one of them.
Jan Koum, who grew up in the former Soviet Union, has watched a lot of Bollywood in his younger days. The man who sold his company for $19 billion to Facebook is well-versed with Bollywood and has watched the movie ‘Disco Dancer’ around 20 times as a kid.
Market Dynamics at Play
So why is it that Indian movies are not so popular nowadays?
It’s because Hollywood movies are no longer banned here, and after the collapse of the Soviet film distribution system, Hollywood movies have filled the void created in the Russian film market.
This had an obvious impact on Bollywood films, which started losing market share to Hollywood (this happens in several overseas markets for Bollywood films).
However, in recent times, even Bollywood films have started becoming sleeker, with bigger budgets, most are shot in foreign locations, and even the music has a global appeal. No wonder that Russian newspapers are now reporting that there is a renewed interest in Bollywood among young Russians.
Russian Women Love Bollywood Films
There’s no doubt that Russians love watching Indian cinema classics, especially from the sixties & seventies.
There are several threads talking about these movies (trivia, photographs and stories) on several Internet forums.
These films also get regularly shown on Russian television, especially the Domashny channel, which is aimed at women and promotes family values.
Like many other countries, even in Russia, families and women seem to be more loyal to Bollywood films (I guess because of its portrayal of family and its emotional content, and the dancing of course ).
For Russian fans of Indian films, there is even a special satellite channel called ‘India TV’.
But again, its the Bollywood dance that has taken the world by storm. Even Russians love Indian dance, and to capitalize on that, almost every popular sports club in Russia (especially Moscow) teaches yoga and the art of Indian dance.
President Dmitry Medvedev, with Bollywood biggies, on his visit to India
Tourism in Russia has seen rapid growth since the late Soviet times, first inner tourism and then international tourism as well.
Diverse regions and ethnic cultures, rich cultural heritage (several UNESCO World Heritage Sites) and a great natural variety makes Russia one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.
Major tourist routes in Russia include:
- Travel around the Golden Ring of ancient cities
- Cruises on the big rivers like Volga
- Long journeys on the famous Trans-Siberian Railway
Additional information about Russia:
- Capital: Moscow. Dialing code: 7. Currency: Russian ruble
Do you know what’s the Exchange rate between the Indian rupee and the Russian Ruble?
Its the same, almost 1:1…This makes Russia a tempting travel destination for Indians.
Some of the top places frequented by Indian travelers include the Kremlin, Red Square, the Old Tsar houses, Cruise along Moscow river.
Checkout this video of Destination Russia.