Indian Films Filling Gap Left by Thai Programs

Indian films are back in the Cambodian limelight, with local television stations broadcasting more Indian movies since the Jan 29 anti-Thai riots.

The recent surge is reminiscent of the 1980s and early 1990s, when Indian movies were regularly shown on television and in theaters in Cambodia.

Thai programming had, until recently, dominated Cambodian television and movie theaters. But the Ministry of Information banned Thai movies and soap operas after the Rasmei Angkor (Light of Angkor) newspaper falsely reported Thai actress Suvanant Kongying as saying that Angkor Wat ought to belong to Thailand.

The alleged remark led to the Jan 29 rioting, and relations bet­ween Cambodia and Thailand remain strained.

The ban also came as government officials were increasingly expressing concern over the growing influence of Thai pop culture in Cambodia. However, like Thailand, much of Cambo­dia’s traditional culture has its roots in Indian culture.

The ban on Thai programming was lifted March 17. But stations have continued to broadcast Indian movies. Station managers say that, for the time being, they would rather show fewer Thai movies rather than immediately returning to Thai programming, ministry Secretary of State Khieu Kanharith said. There is still animosity among some Cambodians to­ward Thailand, he said.

The revived interest in Indian movies comes as the Indian Em­bassy is holding a festival of Indian films, with movie screenings that began Sunday and will continue each evening through Wednesday.

Cambodian viewers interviewed this week said they prefer Indian movies to Thai programming. “Indian cinema educates people to respect a country’s culture,” said university student Rors Sokmeth.

Some people mentioned the higher production values of Indian films, which often feature hundreds of actors.

The embassy is showing its films in the Hindi language with English subtitles each day except Tuesday. Synopses of the stories will be available in Khmer each night, in English on Tuesday.

The movies begin at 5:30 pm at Chaktomuk Theater. Admission is 2,000 riel.

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