Iraqi man laments Bollywood decline

Iraqi man laments Bollywood decline

BAGHDAD - Agence France-Presse
Iraqi man laments Bollywood decline

Adil Hamid Khalaf shows a picture of himself posing with Indian actor Bachchan. AFP Photo

Adil Hamid Khalaf is like many Iraqi traders, with his tiny store stocked to the brim with VCDs and DVDs. What sets him apart is he can extol, in halting Hindi no less, the glory of 1950s Bollywood classics.

Khalaf’s high prices for new movies, he charges as much as $10 whereas others offer knock-offs for 40 cents , and passion for Indian films from a bygone era mean sales are fewer than ever.

Unfazed, however, the 65-year-old wistfully recalls what he believes was a better era for Bollywood cinema, and life in Iraq, while excitedly relaying anecdotes from his latest meeting with Indian film legend Amitabh Bachchan, whom Khalaf refers to as a “good friend.”

“Lambu! Lambu!” Khalaf exclaims, using the Hindi word for tall to describe the six-foot, 1.88-meter actor, with blown-up photographs of their near-annual meetings at Bachchan’s Mumbai home plastered across the walls of the three-meter by one-meter shop in Baghdad’s Najah cinema complex.

“Old Indian movies taught you how to behave with others, they taught you manners, they built your character,” he said, speaking in Arabic.

“They taught the viewer how to be good to their parents, to touch the feet of their mothers and fathers.” “Nowadays, Indian movies are filled with action, drugs, knives, pistols, bullets. They are teaching people to kill, not teaching people to behave well.”

No halls dedicated to Indian movies remain

Khalaf’s business began as a venture with four friends who, after enjoying Indian films at Baghdad’s cinema halls in the 1960s, began selling cassettes of movie songs.

 At the time, movie theaters in the capital did good business broadcasting Arab, Indian and Western films, with some cinema halls dedicated solely to showing Bollywood flicks.

Now, no halls dedicated to Indian movies remain and the capital’s movie theaters are widely derided by Baghdad’s residents as dens showing pornographic movies and places for gay men to meet, a reputation the industry has struggled to shed in a country where pornography and homosexuality are taboo.