About the Author: Atul Keshap is the Director of the Office of India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Maldives in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.Editor's Note: Atul Keshap visited India in early December. This blog entry is the third in a series of his reflections on his trip.
I'm a big fan of Indian movies and the values of human rights, mutual respect, social justice, and individual freedom that they espouse. When I served in Morocco, I heard shopkeepers singing Bollywood songs in the souks of Marrakech. My Israeli counterparts tell me that all Israelis know a few Bollywood numbers by heart from their time in grade school. In Russia and in Indonesia, from Kabul to Falls Church, people are flocking to Bollywood movies because of their catchy music, compelling plots, fantastic movie sets, and the opportunity they provide to marvel at the entertainment powerhouse that is India. The values of India are transmitted to audiences numbering in the billions thanks to these movies and their stars, ensuring that the soft power of India and the democratic and peaceful values of India spread throughout the world in an approachable and enjoyable fashion. Bollywood and Hollywood may rule the movie world, and are working to cement an ever-closer partnership, but India also has large domestic movie industries in major vernacular languages, including in Telugu in the state of Andhra Pradesh, where "Tollywood” is the name of the game.
The first time I saw the Tollywood classic movie "Quick Gun Murugun, the Misadventures of an Indian Cowboy," was on a flight from Cairo to Dubai. I was tired after a hard round of negotiations, and a funny movie was just what I needed to relax. "Quick Gun Murugun" left me laughing so hard that I had tears in my eyes. As a big fan of westerns of all types, I was extremely excited to meet Dr. Rajendra Prasad, alias Quick Gun Murugun, and see him in action on my recent visit to Hyderabad to visit our Consulate General there and to learn more about economic and political trends in the dynamic state of Andhra Pradesh.
Dr. Prasad and I met at Bhoot Bungalow, the set in Hyderabad of his upcoming film “Ayya Re” in which he plays the role of a Swami, or "God Man." He certainly looked the part, dressed head-to-toe in orange, including an orange turban. Dr. Prasad and I discussed a wide range of topics -- everything from the synergy between India and the United States to the role of comedy in daily life. Dr.Prasad said that comedy was the thing of the future and that how movies can be made fun by taking incidents from real life. We also spoke about how to forge connections between Hollywood and Bollywood, Tollywood and Kollywood, and Dr. Prasad promised both his "art and heart” to America. But it was Dr. Prasad's parting shot that proved to be the proverbial icing on the cake -- a souvenir hat from his first movie, and his announcement of a "Quick Gun Murugun" sequel to be shot in the United States, called “The Good, The Bad, and The Idli”!