By Manik Mehta
Berlin, (IANS) Screaming fans and high-pitched media coverage greeted Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan when he arrived here for the screening of his blockbuster film "Om Shanti Om" - or OSO, as locals call it - at the ongoing Berlinale, the Berlin Film Festival.
The huge and almost uncontrollable turnout at the Berlinale of both German and non-German fans Friday night also goes to prove that Germany is shedding its negative perception of what Germans once described, not without contempt, as "exotic films", the "dance-and-song musicals" produced by "Mumbai's dream factories".
Indeed, ever since German television started showing Bollywood films a few years ago, the rise in Bollywood's popularity in Germany has been quite phenomenal. German-language Bollywood websites have started to appear, and hundreds of bloggers routinely discuss in German not only Bollywood films but also the personal lives of their favourite stars.
"Shah Rukh Khan is rated as the biggest Bollywood film star in Germany, even surpassing the Big B (Amitabh Bachhan)," says Ramesh Sinha, an Indian businessman who does outsourcing for Germans and who is himself a Bollywood buff.
"Shah Rukh's two superhits 'Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge' and 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham' were well received in Germany, with fans thronging to video shops to lay their hands on audio and video cassettes and DVDs of Shah Rukh's films," Sinha said.
Shah Rukh, whose "Om Shanti Om" is being screened in a section called Berlinale Special, acknowledged that he may be a "big movie star" in India but he definitely was "humbled" by the atmosphere at the Berlinale.
The Bollywood superstar was, ostensibly, touched by the spontaneous and emotional welcome given to him by the German fans.
Film experts and the entire German media - from the sensational Boulevard tabloid Bild to the conservative broadsheet Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung - described it as unprecedented that tickets for OSO were sold out in less than seven minutes.
A surprised Shah Rukh quipped: "I thought they (the audiences) must have mistaken the movie title!"
Indeed, the tickets were completely sold out after only seven minutes. According to one employee at the Berlinale ticket office, there had been at least 20,000 queries for tickets through the Internet.