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Bollywood: Why Somalis love Indian cinema



Photo: Hollywood Reporter

Indian cinemas are popular among Somalis in the Horn of Africa region with many households which own TV sets subscribing to at least one Indian channel which airs Bollywood movies and series.

The popularity of these shows is not restricted to the Horn of Africa country but extends to Somalis living in neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia.

The love of Bollywood can perhaps be epitomised in this quote from one of several Somali pirates who was arrested by the Indian navy in 2011: “I love India and Bollywood. I have seen India on television and started loving it. I want to visit every Indian city,” India’s NDTV reported at the time. Among the items seized from the pirates – besides weapons – were DVDs of Bollywood films.

Popular Somali TV channels almost often air Indian soap operas. The movies are dubbed into Somali thus enabling viewers to follow the plot without any language barriers.

Cinema halls, and movie stores in the region, aimed at Somali audiences, almost exclusively screen or sell Indian films.
The popularity of the movies has also promoted Indian music, featured in the films, among Somalis. This music is often played at home or during weddings.

Before Somalia’s Islamist al-Shabab group emerged, youths in the northeastern Kenya border town of Mandera would occasionally cross over into Somalia’s Buulo Haawo to watch Indian movies. This was as a result of Muslim clerics, and the local authorities, clamping down on cinema halls which have sometimes been perceived as enticing school children into truancy.

Cinema halls in Al-Shabab-held areas in Somalia are non-operational as the Al-Qaeda-linked group considers pop culture “unIslamic”. In 2006, the Union of Islamic Courts – the precursor to Al-Shabab – which was in control of central and southern Somalia, arrested, and flogged, many people for watching Indian movies in public entertainment spots.

In 2014, Al-Shabab banned the sale and use of smart phones in areas under its control. Part of the reason was to prevent locals from downloading and watching movies, or listening to songs, through their phones.

Somalis are also increasingly obtaining Bollywood gossip from websites and blogs which publish in their vernacular. Some of the popular websites for news and information on Indian films include Netherlands-based and

A few years ago, an online forum, Somalinet Forum, hosted a discussion on whether Somali women should be allowed to watch Indian movies with critics opposing the shows saying they would encourage them to “ask their husbands to treat them the way Bollywood actors treat their partners.
Bollywood influence is common among students. Popular girls have often been given nicknames such as Kajol or Priyanka derived from star actresses Kajol Devgan and Priyanka Chopra. Boys on the other hand have been nicknamed after characters such Karan and Arjun, rather than the actors themselves.

Shah Ruh Khan, Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan are among the most popular Indian actors among Somalis.

Not every actor is referred to by his actual name. For example Akshay Kumar is often referred to as Mr Bond for his role in the eponymous 1992 movie directed by Raj Sippy.

Another actor, Amitabh Bachchan, is popularly known as Ali Dheere – the tall Ali – because of his height. Ali is a popular Somali name and it is easier for most Somalis since his real name is difficult to pronounce. Bachchan gained popularity in India’s film industry in the 1970s and is one of the most influential Bollywood actors.

Indian films, unlike productions from Hollywood and Nigeria’s Nollywood, are popular due to cultural similarities between Somalis and Indians. Hollywood is seen as violent and full of nudity and indecency.

Amina Ali, a 24 year-old mother of one in Nairobi, Kenya, is watching Kasamh Se (The Promise) – an Indian soap opera produced by Ekta Kapoor of Balaji Telefilms. The story is about three sisters Bani, Pia and Rano. After their father’s death, the three sisters go to Mumbai according to what their fathers will said and go to live in Jai Walia’s house a famous business tycoon who knew their father.

Malyun, Amina’s younger sister, is fightingfor the remote-control.She wants to switch it into another channel airing her favourite series, Jamai Raja. Jamai Raja is the story of a young man Sidharth, who despite being a jet-setting hotelier with a growing empire to tend to, takes it upon himself to repair the estranged relationship between his wife Roshni and mother-in law Durga Devi Patel (DD).

“I like watching Indian films, we do have some similarities. We wear the saris as the Indian women and they don’t show indecency films,” said Amina.

The plots usually revolve around the themes of love, family relations, and arranged marriages, which attract Somali audiences.
The Indian female dress, the sari, is almost similar to the Somali ‘garba saar’ while women in both societies don’t kiss in public.

Similarly, the fact that members of extended Indian families often live together is a trait that Somalis can closely identify with.

However, Indian films are facing competition from Yesilcam – Turkish cinemas. Turkish soap operas are also gaining popularity among this community. The filsm are bubed in Somalia, so there would e language barrier.

Despite Bollywood’s popularity, few realise the shared cultural connection between these two societies on either side of the Indian Ocean.

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Arts and Culture

Why would Americans rather drive their car for days than take the train?




In the USA, taking a train is more complicated than flying or driving. Train stations are in shady neighborhoods where you don’t want to walk or park your car. In Europe and Asia, the stations are in the center and you can hop on the Metro train from the main train station.

Further, in the USA, freight rail takes the right-of-way, so your train may be delayed 12 hours or so. It’s not convenient. It’s more of an ‘experience’ to take the train than a convenience.


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Arts and Culture

Somalia hosts its first public film screening in 30 years



Image: AFP

After more than 30 years, Somalia has hosted its first public film screen, a sign of hope for the Horn of Africa nation that has been battling armed group like al Shabab for three decades.

Two short films by Somali director Ibrahim CM were shown at the National Theatre in the capital Mogadishu, where heavy security was in place, the BBC reported.

The theatre has been a suicide bomb target and a base for warlords.

Theatre director Abdikadir Abdi Yusuf said it was a “historic night for the Somali people”.

It shows how hopes have been revived… after so many years of challenges,” he told the AFP news agency.

“It’s a platform that provides an opportunity to… Somali songwriters, storytellers, movie directors and actors to present their talent openly,” he added.

Filmgoers paid $10 (£7) to watch the two films, Hoos and Date from Hell. They had to pass through several checkpoints in order to reach the heavily-guarded green zone, which houses the theatre as well as the presidential palace and the parliament.

“I used to watch concerts, dramas, pop shows, folk dances and movies in the national theatre during the good old days,” one attendee, Osman Yusuf Osman, told AFP.

“It makes me feel bad when I see Mogadishu lacking the nightlife it once had. But this is a good start.”

Another expressed concerns about safety.

Hakimo Mohamed said she was a schoolgirl when she and her friends went to the theatre to watch concerts and dramas.

“People used to go out during the night and stay back late if they wished – but now, I don’t think it is so safe,” she said.

The theatre was built by Chinese engineers as a gift from China’s leader Mao Zedong in 1967. It was seen as an important driver for Somalia’s cultural development in the 1970s and 80s.

It closed in 1991 at the start of the civil war, and was used as a base for warlords fighting over the capital. The theatre fell into disrepair as a result.

When it reopened in 2012 – after repairs carried out by the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) – the building was immediately blown up by al-Shabab militants who considered live entertainment and films to be morally corrupt.

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Arts and Culture

10 worst things people say at the start of conversations




By Gina Barreca for Psychology Today

The top-10 worst conversational openers all have something in common. Narcissists are experts are sabotaging their conversational partners by seeming to ask questions that are actually attacks.

Asking “Do you remember what you said to me a long time ago that still genuinely hurts my feelings?” will probably not end in a hug and kiss.

You can stop these conversational sabotages before they explode into actual bad emotional eruptions. Learn to take back control of the dialogue.

1. “We should talk. For real.”

2. “Are you sitting down?”

3. “In my humble opinion.”

4. “No offense or anything.”

5. “Look, there’s something you should know.”

6. “I should warn you: You won’t like what I’m going to say.”

7. “Hey, I’m just being honest.”

8. “I’m the only one brave enough to tell you what everybody’s saying behind your back.”

and I’m not a delicate flower. Even as I ridicule these ghastly phrases by piling them on top of each other in an attempt to diminish their power, they sting my fingers as I hit the keyboard. That’s how poisonous they are emotionally, and how potentially powerful.

Insensitive clichés, delivered with barely repressed glee have exactly the opposite effect of the expression “abracadabra”: They make everything magically slam shut instead of open up.

Want to terrify your listener into short breaths, dilated pupils, and rapid heartbeats? Using a confidentially condescending tone of voice, start your sentence with “Not that it’s really any of my business but…” and watch color drain from their faces.

Narcissists are the most adept at delivering these lines, but expert manipulators and masterful passive-aggressive types also make trenchant use of these rhetorical weapons.

A conversation beginning with “We really need to talk” has never ended with a hug and a kiss. Never in my life have I come away feeling better after a tête-à-tête initiated via “Don’t take this personally.”

And anyone who lives in the mistaken belief that muttering, “I probably shouldn’t even be telling you this” will bring you closer together has made a perilous choice.

You are the one they put in danger; they remain in control of the situation.

If someone “shouldn’t be telling you this”—if they are betraying someone else’s confidence by saying it and if the information only serves to make you feel important because you think you have a secret—then the warning is right. This is not something you should hear.

Mark Twain summed it up when he wrote, “It takes your enemy and your friend, working together, to hurt you to the heart: One to slander you and the other to get the news to you.”

I’d add that the friend who gets gossipy, unnerving, upsetting, unsettling, or unnecessarily catastrophied “news” to you is not really your friend. Does a true friend want to whisper into your ear a rumor or a bad opinion that will make you miserable, especially if it’s about something you can’t change?

Beware the bringer of contraband information. Examine their motives.

Beware, too, those who begin conversations in other ways that depend on the bad fortunes of others. Those who enjoy jaunty rounds of “Guess Who’s Dead?” play a version of this bad conversational game.

The game of “Guess Who’s Dead?” gets increasingly unnerving as we age, given that the list of possible winner/losers gets longer.

Yet I never know how to answer. I mean, do you really want me to guess? Do we go by alphabetical order, age, BMI, or wish fulfillment?

Is it like charades, where you can give hints “Okay, two syllables, sounds like ‘bowling’? Rolling? Rolling Stone? Keith Richards?” But no, it can’t be. Keith Richards. Richards, 77, smoking cigarettes since he was conceived, he will bury us all. When anybody asks, “Guess who just died?” I simply reply “It’s not Keith Richards, so just tell me already.”

How can you stop these conversational sabotages, these comments that can verge on micro- aggressions while disguised as socialization opportunities, before they explode into actual bad emotional eruptions? You might consider taking control back from the person who appears to want to seize it from you, even if they are not aware it, or appear to be not aware of it.

You can take the reins in the dialogue. Saying something as simple as “You’re making me nervous. Can we get to the main point right away?” is both honest and direct. It shortcuts the possible poorly or dangerously sparking emotional circuitry and cuts down on drama.

But, look, I’m only telling you this as a friend. Don’t take this personally. I’ve heard you used to be pretty good at conversation, at least you were once. Everybody says so—well, almost everybody. You might not want to hear this, but….

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