La Paz (Bolivia), Jorge Ramirez seemed like an amiable technician-turned cab owner who might be meeting an Indian for the first time in his life. “From India?” he asked and before I could answer yes, he added, “Shah Rukh Khan?” Before I could answer even that, he popped in a CD in his cab’s player that belted out “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham.”
To be asked about Shah Rukh in the midst of the Andes at the elevation of over 12,000 feet was surprising enough. What added to it was Jorge’s excitement at meeting someone who was from the same country and, therefore, by implication his favourite star’s representative.
As we began driving from La Paz to Lake Titicaca, reputedly the largest navigable lake in the world at an elevation of 14,000 feet, Jorge’s CD kept churning out songs from many of Shah Rukh’s most popular movies. He would occasionally hum along, not understanding a word of what was being said.
“I love Shah Rukh Khan and I have seen many of his movies,” Ramirez told IANS. As if to prove his knowledge of the actor’s body of work he mentioned “Karan Arjun”, “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai”, “Chalte Chalte”, “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham”, “Kal Ho Na Ho” and “Main Hoon Na”.
“I found ‘Kal Ho Na Ho’ very touching, with Shah Rukh Khan’s heart problem. I remember ‘Karan Arjun’ was about two brothers and a mother. I also loved ‘Main Hoon Na’,” Ramirez said as he seemed to process the complicated names of movies.
And then as if he had a eureka moment, he started talking about “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham”. He particularly mentioned a dance sequence of Kajol. “Kahol dances very good,” he said pronouncing the ‘j’ in Kajol the way it is done by the Spanish-speaking people, like a soft ‘h.’
Ramirez said his CDs and DVDs of Shah Rukh movies came from Lima, the capital of neighbouring Peru. It was obvious that the products were pirated, a detail that Ramirez was blissfully unaware of. When told about the actor’s new movie “My Name Is Khan”, which Ramirez did not know of, he promised to get it from Lima on his next trip there.
It is hard to gauge how popular Hindi movies are in this part of the world, but if a visit to a corporate office the next day is any indication, their popularity certainly stretches beyond Ramirez. An office worker was playing a Shah Rukh song on her PC!