Submission #2

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Submitted by Anonymous
29 January 2016 - 8:37pm
The one with Russian Movies

Like most commodities, foreign exchange too was chronically short during the License-Permit Raj, especially during the “garibi hatao” phase of the early 1970s. So, concerning films demanding foreign exchange, the government allocated only token amounts for imports. This implied the end to all recent Hollywood films and the allocations sufficed only for the import of ancient Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton films.

The Soviet Union on the contrary, saw a massive opportunity here, since imports from the USSR were paid for in rupees, not foreign exchange. However, high-class Soviet films catered to too small an elite audience to make sense for commercial release in large auditoriums. So the Soviets sought to overcome this by marketing pot-boilers with supposed mass appeal. I remember one Soviet attempt at making a Western, called “The Headless Horseman.”  It was dubbed in English, and had American-looking riders on horses, plus a number of black slaves. I wondered where the Soviets had found black actors to play the role of slaves. Well, it turned out that the film was shot in Cuba, for easy access to black faces!

(Excerpts from my upcoming book “25 years of Swaminomics: From Narasimha Rao to Narendra Modi”)

Swaminathan Aiyar

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