South Africa loves Bollywood films on TV!
The success of a trial season of Bollywood movies on South African TV channel SABC3 has led to not just another season of top films, but also to repeat transmissions in a second slot.
By Fakir Hassen, IANS
SABC3 is one of the three national TV services of the South African Broadcasting Corporation.
"The first season was an experiment, but the viewership and the response from the public was phenomenal, well beyond expectation," Anu Nepal, commissioning editor at the channel, told IANS.
Nepal admitted that the aim was not to target only South African Indian viewers, but changing the mindset of white and black audiences about Bollywood movies.
"We knew they were going to get hooked, but not at the early stage at which this has happened."
Among South African Indians, who never had this facility on television before, viewer figures for this timeslot increased seven fold, despite the initial broadcasts being late on Saturday evenings and into the early hours of Sunday mornings.
But viewers from other communities were also attracted in large numbers, bolstered by the English subtitles on blockbusters like "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" and "Devdas".
This has led to a second 13-week season of Bollywood films, as well as a repeat of the previous week's screening on Saturday afternoons.
"The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive all round," said Nepal, adding that most common comments received were about the scheduling times and requests for specific movies.
"The popularity of the mix of films, especially of love stories like 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge' and 'Devdas', in the Bollywood screenings showed that we were complying with our strategy of not alienating any section of the audience."
The performance of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" made it the most popular film across the board, many ascribing this to the family values of the film.
Another movie that found huge favour was "Munnabhai M.B.B.S".
"This was not unusual, because if you look at the popularity of South African movies made by Leon Schuster, like 'Mr Bones', it definitely appeals to the South African community that loves the kind of slapstick humour in those movies as well as in 'Munnabhai M.B.B.S.," said Nepal.
Ironically, "Munnabhai M.B.B.S." did not do well at the cinema box office when it was first released here.
"Devdas", the epic love story starring Shah Rukh, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai, proved to be the favourite of South African Indians.
"I think it may have been due to it being the first offering in our Bollywood slot. I heard of entire families in certain areas of Chatsworth, (the huge Indian township south of Durban) staying up until late watching the movie together. There was this whole spirit of camaraderie and it became more of an event for them."
Bollywood cinema has become very popular in South Africa since the country's largest cinema chain, Ster-Kinekor, started a Bollywood circuit at its theatres across the country three years ago. Earlier this year, the second largest group, Nu-Metro, also started screening Bollywood films.