There are many interesting angles to Indo-Azerbaijan ties

If you hear an Azeri humming “Hum tum ek kamre mein band ho” from the 1973 movie Bobby, don't be surprised. They might know a lot more about Indian music and films than most of us. On a night of many such revelations, the supposedly thin cultural thread that ties India and Azerbaijan is actually not so thin!

In India to facilitate bilateral talks between the two countries, Dr. Tamerlan Karayev, Ambassador of Azerbaijan, poignantly said, “We have literally grown up watching Hindi movies. Even today Raj Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Mithun Chakraborty are legends in Azerbaijan. We wholeheartedly accepted the Indian culture as a part of our own,” as he swooned to the tunes of S.D. Burman.

Interestingly, most women in Azerbaijan are named Indira after Indira Gandhi, or Nargis after the much celebrated actor. Recalling an often-narrated tale, Elshad Nassirov, a delegate from Azerbaijan, said, “After naming her daughter Indira, a mother wrote to Ms. Indira Gandhi. It is believed that late Ms. Gandhi not only replied to her letter but also sent her a present. Soon after that every woman wanted to name her daughter after the legendary Indira Gandhi.”

Be it poetry, literature, dance, cinema or music, India and Azerbaijan are closely related to each other. Who can forget the epic tale of Laila-Majnu! Bollywood from time immemorial has been suffering from this ‘tragic love story' syndrome. The quintessential tragic tale of love is how most Indians love their love stories. But how many of us know that Laila-Majnu is not an Indian creation? No, it's not even an adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The tale of Laila-Majnu is actually a ‘desi' rendition of Leyli Majnun written by an Azerbaijani poet Nizami Ganjavi in the 12th Century.

However Dr. Karayev believes that these are like drops in the ocean and to sustain cultural relations between the two countries, solidifying economic and trade relations is a must. “A couple of instances of cultural links do not solidify relations. For everything to flourish it is imperative that ample capital is invested in it. Therefore, unless we strengthen our trade relations, cultural relations cannot develop.”