Maldivans rue cultural invasion of the desi kind

MUMBAI: It is not just Indian politicos who whip up the cultural invasion tag when it comes to films and programmes from the West. In the Indian Ocean tourist hot spot Maldives the very same charge is being levelled against Indian stars and programmes.

Indian movies and TV programmes are being lapped up by the island population so much so that local artistes are complaining of being given short shrift.

Recently, Aamna Shariff (Kashish of Kahiin To Hoga) and Juhi Parmar (Kumkum of KumKum-Ek Pyara Sa Bandhan) performed in a carnival to sell-out crowds. The carnival concerts were part of the Eid celebrations in the Maldives and the most profitable nights for the organisers were those when Indian TV stars made special appearances. Soon thereafter, Aamna was approached to do a music video opposite the popular local musician Yoosuf Shafeeu. The video was directed by Ahmed Tholhath.

According to a report in the Raveeru daily (a local newspaper in Maldives), "During the Eid time this year, two clubs of Lhaviyani atoll Hinnavaru island competed against each other to book some Indian TV stars who were due to make their appearance on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at rival concerts arranged in that island as a part of the holiday celebrations."

That the Indian TV actors are having a ball goes without saying. The report further states, "It is estimated that the total cost of the entertainment shows in Hinnavaru to be above a million Rufiya, considering that some Indian TV stars reportedly appeared in Hinnavaru for a fee of $4,000 (or about Rf51,400), a staggering sum in local standards."

But this joy ride for the Indian TV stars has not come without a fair share of controversy. There are sections of people in the island who are feeling highly offended to what they term is cultural invasion.

A top local Maldivean actor "Rico" Moosa Maniku recently commented: "The influence of Hindi (Indian) film stars on Maldivian audiences have gone out of hand. They are being brought to grace the stage of (Majeediyya Diamond Jubilee) Carnival. They are being brought for entertainment shows in the island communities during this Eid holiday. They are even gracing our local video songs. Is there no room for Maldives' own pop culture."

Speaking to, Aamna defended, "I don't understand why some people in Maldives should feel sour about this. Their people are getting what they want. Their people feel happy. That's what should matter most to them. Besides, any form of art should not have any cultural barriers."

Juhi Parmar who was in Maldives last month, informed that she had inaugrated the carnival. When asked if she sensed any tension while she was there, she quipped, "Not at all. I am amused. This is news to me. But I can understand. I hope they learn to digest our popularity. If we appreciate stuff imported from foreign lands, why can't the Maldivans?"

Among the other stars who have done concert shows in the Maldives include Ronit Roy (of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kasautii Zindagii Kay fame) and Simone Singh (of Heena fame).

Ronit Roy was unavailable for comment, while Simone Singh said, "Heena has made me very popular there. Even I was supposed to be at the carnival. Also, I was supposed to inaugurate a multiplex. Unfortunately, I could not make it. Maldiveans should not get perturbed. It will all settle down. These are early days for them. I remember how we changed our outlook and accepted the satellite invasion in our country."

At the end of the day, the bottomline seems to be money. Maldivians earlier engaged in more traditional forms of entertainment during Eid holidays but this seems to be the beginning of a new trend. While some leading Indian TV stars have already appeared at the Diamond Jubilee Carnival, more are due this week. Plus, the Majeediyya Diamond Jubilee Committee plans to bring more Indian stars to grace the stage there over the next three months.

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