Dubai: As Bollywood matures and evolves it offers a new genre of movies that is trying to shake off the old stereotypes with a new breed of actors and a bold sense of acting.
Yet that has not weakened the conventional movies that had catapulted Bollywood into the international scene, with their ill-fated love stories, elaborate song-and-dance numbers, and exaggerated violence.
An audience for such movies is still strong, and evidently, it is not only in India. Sama TV, a Dubai-based Arabic language channel, started screening Hindi movies four months ago. According to Ahmad Al Mansouri, deputy manager, a recent online survey revealed that Hindi movies were very popular among its audience.
"It was recommended we show Hindi movies, and have been doing so ever since," said Al Mansoori.
Asad Khan, cinema manager at Grand Cineplex in Al Garhoud, said that approximately 40 per cent of its Hindi movie viewers are nationals, and felt that the popularity of Hindi movies among them is increasing.
"Some nationals start asking about certain Hindi movies as soon as their posters are up, even before they're released," he said, adding that the cinema has started showing more Hindi movies than before.
Natasha Sawhney, marketing manager at Cinestar Cinemas agreed, adding that she sees a trend toward Hindi movies among Arabs.
"There has always been an interest among Arabs, but it's growing in general."
National Shathra Ahmad, 22, has been watching Hindi movies since elementary school and claims to have picked up Hindi from them. "I can speak a little Hindi, but everything I know is from the movies," she said. Those who can't understand Hindi, she claims, resort to reading Arabic subtitles, which she said were often weak translations. Still, she said, many of her friends enjoy watching Hindi movies for their songs and love stories.
National Ali Sadek, 22, agreed that subtitles are weak, but claims he can "manage to understand" the movies by picking up some Arabic and Farsi words.
National Sharifa, 27, said she prefers Hindi movies over English language ones because Hindi movies are "more realistic and less violent" than English ones.
Sadek considers Amitabh Bachhan and Salman Khan his favourite actors.
According to Al Mansoori, the popularity of Hindi movies in the Gulf-Arab region is attributed to the cultural links. "The Indian culture [specifically] has had an effect on the Gulf Arabs," he said.