India is cool in Brazil thanks to hot "novela"

Mon Aug 17, 2009 1:14pm EDT
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By Stuart Grudgings

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The pink-walled palaces, shimmering saris and Bollywood dances all scream India. So why are the actors speaking Portuguese and kissing passionately?

Welcome to Brazil's latest soap opera hit, a lavish production that has sparked a mini India boom in Brazil, even while taking liberties with its portrayal of the Asian giant.

The "Caminho das Indias" (Way of the Indias) telenovela, with Hindi phrases thrown into the Portuguese dialogue, has piqued Brazilians' interest in the emerging economic powerhouse that was little-known here before.

Hindi phrases such as the exclamation "Arre Baba" (Oh my goodness!) have entered everyday speech; interest in yoga, meditation and Indian dance is on the rise and demand for Indian clothes and decorations has jumped.

On Rio de Janeiro's beaches, vendors are touting Indian-style sarongs.

"People like it because it's very energetic and very happy," said Samra Sanches, an instructor who has started giving Indian dance classes. "We try to work on moves similar to those in the novela."

The story, which like most Brazilian soaps is told in a grueling 200 or so episodes over more than six months, centers on a forbidden love between beautiful high-caste woman Maya and handsome Bahuan, a low-caste Dalit, a group formerly known as "Untouchables."

Filmed partly in India's Rajasthan state, the action flits between Jaipur and Agra where tradition and religion hang in the air and the beach-side Rio of micro-bikinis.   Continued...