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Leicester to screen first Gujarati film in 30 years
By Prasun Sonwalkar, Indo-Asian News Service
London, Jan 13 (IANS) Leicester - a town with a large minority of Gujarat origin in Britain - will soon see the first ever screening of a Gujarati movie in 30 years.
Britain is a key overseas market for Hindi films, but the movie, "Dukhiya Na Beli Bapa Sitaram," will be the first Gujarati language film released in Britain in February in 30 years since "Jai Mataji" in the late 1970s.
The film stars Srikant Soni and follows the life from childhood to death of the famous Hindu saint Bajrangdas Bapa ( Bapa Sitaram ) of Bagdana village in Gujarat. The 20th century saint is said to have a large following among Gujaratis in Britain, India and elsewhere, and is believed to have had magical powers and could cure diseases.
Leicester has several cinema halls dedicated to showing Indian films and scores of video/DVD libraries. Pirated copies of Indian films, however, have lately affected the industry.
Local newspapers in Leicester have been reporting the excitement about the Gujarati movie, claiming that the movie had become 'a sensation' in India and had played to packed houses.
Ather Mirza, noted commentator on Indian films from the University of Leicester, told IANS: "The film is likely to do well in Leicester - provided that people have not accessed it already through piracy in which case the cost of watching the film in the cinema - compared with a video at home - may prove to be prohibitive."
Local reports quote producer Bhupat Bodar as saying: "The tremendous response in India has encouraged us to release it in England. The religious theme is evergreen in Gujarati cinema.
"I noticed Bajrangdas Bapu was very popular in towns and cities across Gujarat, but there were no movies about him. The fact this first movie about his life is a hit."
Mirza said regional Indian films were not as popular as mainstream Bollywood movies, except for some Punjabi movies.
Mirza said: "Leicester has a strong and vibrant Gujarati Hindu community, most of them from East Africa. Films, as well as TV serials and music provide them with a cultural touchstone with their homeland and therefore a Gujarati film will provide them with even greater connectivity.
"Living in the West, families are keen to revive cultural and religious traditions and therefore the contemporary religious theme of the film will have greater immediacy and potency for Indians in Britains.
"In many respects, Asians here live in a cultural time warp, holding on to values that have transpired back home, so films provide a way of communicating changes that occur in beliefs and values.
Leicester-based India Trade Bureau manager Mahendra Mistry said: "This will delight members of the older generation who don't get the chance to watch films from their region or about their culture.
"I hope the younger generation will watch this film because in most mainstream Bollywood films you don't hear Gujarati spoken. Regional languages need to be kept alive and this film will help to do that."