Adil Hamid Khalaf has, like many Iraqi traders, his tiny store stocked to the brim with VCDs and DVDs. What sets him apart is he can extol, in halting Hindi no less, the glory of 1950s Bollywood classics.
Mr. Khalaf’s high prices for new movies — he charges as much as $10 whereas others offer knock-offs for 40 cents — and passion for Indian films from a bygone era mean sales are fewer than ever.
Unfazed, however, the 65-year-old wistfully recalls what he believes was a better era for Bollywood cinema, and life in Iraq in general. He excitedly relays anecdotes from his latest meeting with Indian film legend Amitabh Bachchan, whom Mr. Khalaf refers to as a “good friend.”
“ Lambu ! Lambu !” Mr. Khalaf exclaims, using the Hindi word for tall to describe the 1.88-metre actor, with blown-up photographs of their near-annual meetings at Mr. Bachchan’s Mumbai home plastered across the walls of the three-metre-by-one-metre shop in Baghdad’s Najah cinema complex.
He shows off a Rado watch he says was gifted to him by Mr. Bachchan on a recent visit, and quickly pulls out a fading photograph of him standing alongside the actor and his son Abhishek.
Mr. Khalaf, who originally met Mr. Bachchan in 1978, visits him as often as he can and speaks to him in Hindi, which he has learned by watching Bollywood films countless times over the years.
But after recalling his meetings with Mr. Bachchan and other age-old Indian movie stars — photos alongside Rajesh Khanna, Dharmendra, Mithun Chakraborty and Amrish Puri also adorn the walls of his shop — he returns to his laments that Indian cinema has suffered by becoming too Westernised.
Mr. Khalaf’s business began as a venture with four friends who, after enjoying Indian films at Baghdad’s cinema halls in the 1960s, began selling cassettes of movie songs.
At that time, movie theatres in the capital did good business broadcasting Arab, Indian and Western films, with some cinema halls dedicated solely to showing Bollywood flicks.
Now, no halls dedicated to Indian movies remain and the Capital’s movie theatres are widely derided by Baghdad’s residents. –AFP