Ishq: stoking the love of Bollywood in Germany

May 12th, 2008 - 11:32 am ICT by admin  

By Mehru Jaffer
Vienna, May 12 (IANS) When Naseem B. Khan stepped out of the university campus with a degree in business management, he was delighted to discover that Germany was bonkers about Bollywood. It did not take long for this German born of Gujarati parents to combine his own love for Indian cinema with an adventurous career in publishing.

Wasting little time on “ifs and buts”, Khan founded the Ishq Publishing Group in Dinslaken, an industrial town near Dusseldorf and in 2006 launched a Bollywood lifestyle magazine with the same name in the German language. At first he printed 5,000 copies of Ishq and today he rolls out 30,000 copies per month.

This is a daring venture in Germany, a country of about 82.5 million people and 33 million households, out of which 98 percent have at least one television set. Together with Austria and the German speaking part of Switzerland, about 100 million people make up the German language space.

Khan, who looks more like a film star than a publisher, spoke to IANS about the craving here for literature on different aspects of Bollywood like the biographies of stars in the German language.

Germany boasts of a buoyant magazine sector with nearly 900 general magazines and over a thousand specialised periodicals already in the market and is second only to Britain where more books are sold than anywhere else.

Khan’s calculation was simple. He studied surveys that said three million people watched the first Bollywood film aired on the small screen by RTL II, a German entertainment channel in 2004.

The Hindi blockbuster “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Ghum” was screened at prime time and the response was so encouraging that RTL scheduled “Kal Ho Naa Ho”, “Main Hoon Na” and “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” soon after. Overnight Shah Rukh Khan, who stars in all these films, became a household name here.

As pay back to viewers, Bollywood films were dubbed into German for the next set of screenings. With the irritant of subtitles eliminated, the numbers of the ever-growing community of fans naturally increased.

German audiences once exposed to Bollywood wanted to know more about the people they loved to see on screen. Fans wanted to dress like their favourite stars and eat similar food as them.

What Ishq does is to facilitate German fans to follow an entire lifestyle as popularised by Bollywood. Apart from reviews and information about the release of new films and interviews with stars, Ishq carries features on how to sew your own salwar-kameez. It gives addresses of Bollywood dance classes, where to learn Hindustani and how to toss a bean sprout salad to get that Aishwarya Rai Bachchan glow.

The latest issue of the magazine has a stunning shot of Kajol from her latest film “U Me Aur Hum” on the cover and also a feature on Hinduism and a temple in Germany.

“Subscriptions are steadily on the rise, especially now that we are able to promote Ishq with ‘The Merchants of Bollywood’ stage show that has just completed its third tour of Europe,” Julia Wessel, editor in chief, told IANS.

For the moment Khan is busy promoting Ishq and travelling to several German-speaking parts of Europe, including Austria, where ‘The Merchants of Bollywood’ is hugely popular. While in Vienna, Khan set up a stall at the Stadhalle, the premises where the song and dance bonanza was performed to introduce Ishq to Vienna and to talk to fans here.

Ishq may still have a long way to go before it catches up with Der Spiegel, Germany’s most popular magazine with the highest circulation in Europe that sells one million copies every week. But the dream that it could get there is what keeps Khan going.

(Mehru Jaffer can be contacted at mehrujaffer@yahoo.com)

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