Shah Rukh Khan and other film stars as India’s cultural ambassadors

Shahrukh Khan
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Camil Parkhe
Pune, 19th October 2021: This incident took place around 35 years back. Some of us Indian journalists who were undergoing journalism courses in Bulgaria were having dinner at a garden restaurant in Bourgas town of the East European country.

A music group dressed in traditional Bulgarian attire was playing music in the dimly lit restaurant. While sipping Vodka, I happened to glance at one of the portraits there on the wall and I could not believe my eyes.

I had to draw the attention of my Indian friends to confirm that the portrait there was indeed of Raj Kapoor.

Some of us could not suppress our curiosity and rushed to the reception counter to know how the photo of the veteran Indian actor had surfaced there.

Of course, none of the people at the reception counter knew English but with the help of wild gestures and a few words, we learnt that Raj Kapoor was indeed a very popular hero in Bulgaria too.

One of the stewards then approached the music group to have a word with the group leader. And lo!

The music group soon started playing the famous tune of ‘Mera Juta Hai Japani..’ while one of the group members started dancing in the legendary Raj Kapoor style.

Then we learnt that Raj Kapoor’s Hindi films and his songs like ‘Aawara hoo..’ were very popular among the people in Russia and the East European nations.

This incident flashed before my eyes as I conversed with a young cashier in a supermarket in Paris a few months back when I along with my wife Jacqueline and our daughter Aditi was on a tour in Europe. When my daughter told him that we were Indian tourists, his instant exclamation was ‘Shah Rukh Khan’s India!’.

That gave us a pleasant surprise. He was not fluent in English but we somehow managed to strike a conversation.

He said that he was an SRK’s fan, liked his Hindi films, the music in the film and the dance sequences. He said that even without French sub-titles, he could understand the Hindi film story and that he also watched Hindi films of Hrithik Roshan, Aamir Khan and other Indian actors.

“King Khan and the new generation of Hindi actors have continued Raj Kapoor’s legacy of being India’s cultural ambassadors,” I said to myself as I walked out of the supermarket.

Camil Parkhe

(Camil Parkhe is a senior journalist based in Pune. He started his journalism career in Goa and has worked in various newspapers in different capacities.)