India? They would ask and burst into laughter. The English vocabulary of our interlocutors was limited to: "I love my India," "I love Shahrukh Khan," "I love Amitabh Bachchan," "I love Aamir Khan." Shahrukh, however, was clearly Hero No. 1 in Marrakech. The people here are generally friendly, but if you are Indian you are made especially welcome. There is nothing phoney or contrived about this sentiment. Other tourists are gazed at with a semi-bored curiosity; a native from Shahrukh Khan-land is treated as family.
As a goodwill ambassador, Bollywood’s role in big stretches of our unfriendly planet is hugely underestimated. From Indonesia to Algeria to Antigua, Bollywood is the Indian’s passport to spontaneous personal warmth. At the Al Hillal in Marrakech, the Shahrukh starrer Dil To Pagal Hai was doing roaring business and we were invited to a free screening. I asked Hassan, our friend, philosopher and guide, why Hindi films exercise such a hold in Morocco. Without a moment’s hesitation he replied, "It’s the music, it touches our heart." So, all those ridiculous, vulgar pelvic thrusts and those loud, plagiarised songs which embarrass many of us, keep large parts of the globe in thrall. I don’t know how much foreign exchange Bollywood fetches, but the goodwill it earns for India overseas is inestimable.