The Buzz over B-word

At the 12th Marrakech International Film Festival, Moroccans demonstrate their love for Bollywood with celebrations to mark Indian cinema's centenary.

Amid the biting cold and rain, nearly 50,000 people come together at Marrakech's famous Place Jema El Fna for a glimpse of their favourite star. When Shah Rukh Khan appears, the applause is deafening. Even Rishi Kapoor is greeted with a song from Bobby, his first film as a leading man. It leaves the veteran actor humbled. A local taxi driver serenades Indian visitors with a song from Dil Toh Pagal Hai, Bholi si soorat. He messes up the lyrics but gets the tune and 'Aaye haaye' right.

An icon of French cinema, Catherine Deneuve presents a special tribute to Indian cinema and honours Amitabh Bachchan at the 12th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival. A glittering ceremony to mark Indian cinema's centenary year, it has as guests the largest-ever delegation of Hindi cinema Hrithik Roshan, Sridevi, Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap, Abhay Deol and Ashutosh Gowariker among others.

Moroccans have always loved our films the Hindi film industry started taking cognizance of their affection when Aamir Khan screened Lagaan in Marrakech in 2002. The following year, Bachchan made his maiden visit to receive the Royal Medal of Honour at the hands of King Mohammed. This year, Khan receives the honour by Prince Moulay Rachid.

"I discovered that Moroccans are serious fans of Hindi cinema. The relationship started in late '60s and '70s when some distributors settled in Marrakech and started screening Hindi films. Somehow we were unaware of the impact our films have," says Bachchan. He terms the Marrakech reception as a "noble, unique and laudable gesture" that felicitates another country and has dedicated an entire event to Hindi cinema.

The festival unabashedly celebrates Bollywood with song and dance, larger-than-life sheen, and escapism ingredients that film festivals prefer to stay away from.

What's the secret of Bollywood's appeal that manages to cross over? Khan believes "it is our stories, which are about relationships and love, and are understood by everyone".

Hindi cinema may have takers across the world but ironically, the term Bollywood has a derogatory connotation. Says Bachchan, "The term is now introduced in the Oxford dictionary, but it is still a terrible word and not reflective of what we really are. We still need a more indigenous name." Johar believes that even though it is mock terminology, "we have to accept that Bollywood is accepted globally. But we need to be careful with its usage domestically".

But the fervor and enthusiasm for Brand Bollywood at the film festival has made even the sharpest critics take note and admit, albeit grudgingly, that it's time one made peace with "Bollywood". Hollywood director Darren Aronofsky of Black Swan fame, quipped, "I know Bollywood is considered a bad word but I got into it when I was at the American Film Institute." Sholay remains one of his favourite Bollywood films. British actor and former Bond Girl Gemma Arterton, too, declares her love for Bollywood and all things Shah Rukh Khan, especially Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. And the memo from Marrakech is clear: Bollywood is not a bad word.

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