Learn to appreciate our nation, Nepal tells Bollywood

Kathmandu, Jan 30 (IANS) When Hindi comedy film "Chandni Chowk to China" ruffled Nepali sentiments by wrongly asserting that the Buddha was born in India, it was not an isolated mistake, say many Nepalis. They feel that Bollywood has been "stereotyping" and "belittling" the Himalayan nation over the years.

"India's intellectuals have a tradition of looking down on Nepal," says film director Yubaraj Lama, who is also a member of the Nepal Film Development Board.

"India is a super power rich in research and intellectuals. Then why does it repeatedly fail to research Nepal properly and always project its own neighbour in such a negative light?" asks Lama.

Lama remembers the anger in Nepal in the 1990s when Bollywood director David Dhawan's romantic comedy "Gharwali Baharwali" starring Anil Kapoor and Raveena Tandon triggered outrage and public protests.

The plot takes Anil Kapoor, a businessman in the film, to Nepal where he rescues a Nepali girl's goat and has to marry her as, according to the film, it is the tradition in Nepal that a man who saves a woman's goat has to marry her.

But Kapoor is a married man already and the film ends with his Nepali "wife" bowing out of his life after handing over her love child to him and his Indian wife.

"It is an insulting message for Nepal," says Lama. "The implication is that the Indian woman is the gharwali or legitimate wife while the Nepali woman is a mere mistress."

Film journalist Bishnu Gautam recalls the protests the film triggered in Nepal.

"It led to the cinemas showing the film to stop screening it," Gautam says.

The uproar created by the 1998 film was recalled last year when violence erupted in eastern India over a radio jockey making disparaging statements about the winner of Indian Idol, Prashant Tamang, a policeman of Nepali origin.

In 1999 too, there were protests against Bollywood crime classic Vaastav, directed by Mahesh Manrekar and starring Sanjay Dutt, who portrayed a food vendor forced to join Mumbai's dreaded underworld.

"Nepalis were projected as gangsters," says Lama. "India regards us as stereotypes."

Gautam remembers protests in the 80s as well over Bollywood director Subhash Ghai's 1986 film "Karma".

In the film, Bollywood icon Dilip Kumar plays a jailer who decides to take the law into his own hands to revenge himself on the man who killed his children.

"There were protests in Nepal as the film showed a map in which Nepal was depicted as part of India," says Gautam.

"We have a love and hate relationship with Bollywood. We love passionately and we are quick to retaliate when we are angered," he says.

Lama has a graver postscript to add to that.

"When you talk of Nepal, remember the hundreds of Nepalis who laid down their lives (in the Indian Army) to protect India from attacks by China and Pakistan. Learn to respect the blood that was shed for your own security," he says.

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