Russian, Indian intelligentsia rue poor information sharing

August 12th, 2008 - 1:34 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amitabh Bachchan

New Delhi, Aug 12 (IANS) Bollywood actor Raj Kapoor was once the most popular Indian in Russia and 2008 is being celebrated as ‘The Year of Russia in India’, but cultural experts and media representatives of the two countries feel inadequate exchange of information is now hindering bilateral ties. Addressing a video-conference between Moscow and New Delhi on “Russia-India - How to Learn More About Each Other: Mass Information Resources”, a panel of senior Russian media men and department of culture officials and their Indian counterparts opined that the media of the two countries could do a lot to strengthen cultural ties.

Businessmen, merchants, scientists and journalists in both countries accepted during the event Monday that the most important hurdle slowing Indo-Russian cooperation was insufficient knowledge about each other.

They rued that the ‘Year of Russia in India’ was given inadequate coverage by the Indian media.

“The media of both countries have to strengthen the ties between the two nations,” Edward Sagalaev, president of the National Association of Russian Broadcasters, said over video from Moscow.

The Russian team also included Vladimir Shevarnidze, deputy director-general of the Red Media Group of Companies and editor-in-chief of Moscow-based India TV and Alexey Anastasyev, deputy editor-in-chief of Around the World magazine.

India was represented by Puneet Gautam, CEO of the television production house Dreamcatchers, Obaid Siddiqui, professor of the New Delhi-based Mass Communication Research Centre, Harsh Vardhan, director of the Asian Academy of Film and Television and Arun Mohanti, director of the Eurasian Foundation and a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

The conference was anchored by Dmitry Kosyrev, a political analyst with Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

Gautam felt that the information gap had a lot to do with the content of television channels beaming Russian programmes in India.

“Some of it is good and some bad. But the association with Russia has dwindled over the last few years because there are no cultural links between the two countries,” he said.

Recalling an instance when popular misconceptions about Russia prevented him from visiting the country, Gautam said he wanted to profile Russia in a travel capsule “Around the World” that he was preparing for NDTV news channel, but was warned that it was not a safe place for the camera crew.

Travelling down the lane of shared history, a nostalgic Arun Mohanti of JNU said the first Indian movie to be screened in Russia was “Children of the World” made by Nemai Ghosh in 1949.

“At least 10 Russian directors came to Delhi during the first International Film Festival in 1954,” he said.

Former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru once asked actor Prithviraj Kapoor who the most famous Indian in Russia was, Mohanti recalled. A vexed Prithviraj Kapoor said, “Why, you!” To which Nehru replied, “Your son, Raj Kapoor!”

Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan also realised he was very popular in Russia when he visited the country in 1983. Young women mobbed him and girls recited his father Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s poetry.

“Russians know what’s happening in India, but Indians don’t really know what is happening in Russia,” Mohanti said.

The Russian media claims that the country’s youth is still in love with Indian culture, though it may be not be the same in India.

Russia has a television channel devoted solely to Indian cinema, India TV, which has a viewer base of 10 million.

“Russians still love to watch old Bollywood movies, documentaries, informative programmes and capsules on yoga. Nearly 30 percent of the youth under 25 are still interested in India. But there is no such channel in India,” another member of the Russian team said.

Both sides called for better cultural cooperation and suggested that some Indian channels could collaborate with Russian television for more information about the country.

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