- Title: IVORY COAST: Hindi TV queen touches nerve with African women
- Date: 18th March 2010
- Summary: KULKARNI EMBRACING YOUNG GIRL DRESSED IN INDIAN CLOTHES FANS STANDING ON SIDE OF ROAD AND CHEERING
- Embargoed: 2nd April 2010 13:00
- Reuters ID: LVA5ONIWJ7FTDPGFMHQ6I44VAEES
- Story Text: Sweeping round the Ivorian city of Abidjan in a gleaming grey Hummer, visiting Hindi star Pallavi Kulkarni was mobbed by adoring African fans of her headstrong role of "Vaidehi", a female lead in the cult Indian TV romance.
A crowd of around 3,000 people welcomed Kulkarni at the airport, including crowds of screaming local women bearing "Vaidehi" effigies and wearing Indian saris.
Waving from the Hummer, the actress did a tour of Abidjan's residential districts, enchanting fans who came out to greet her.
Kulkarni said that seeing the love given to her by the viewers make her humble. "I want to thank them with all my heart, for loving me and accepting me as Vaidehi and showering me with so much love. It's really brings tears to my eyes when I see the faces of people and I see all the love in their eyes," the TV star said.
The actress said she planed to participate in several Ivorian TV shows both in the country's capital Yammoussokro as well as the economic capital Abidjan.
"Vaidehi," the TV romance series was shown on Ivory Coast's National TV channel until a month ago.
At times the "Vaidehi-mania" eclipsed even the local passion for soccer's African Nations Cup in January.
While popular Indian culture and "Bollywood" films have long been big in West Africa, it is the theme of female empowerment that gives "Vaidehi" its special appeal in a region where violence against women is a largely hidden problem.
"Vaidehi has taught me how to love people. Vaidehi taught me how to forgive. Because of Vaidehi my rice burns on the stove. Anyway, I love Vaidehi because she makes women learn a lot of things. And it's my favourite film," said Deborah Aye, a fan of the show.
Recent statistics show that many African women suffer domestic assault. But such cases rarely come out in public because of a culture of silence and the failure of authorities to take a consistently firm approach.
While many scenes from "Vaidehi" are unabashedly romantic, in one hard-hitting episode Vaidehi's step-sister was abandoned by her husband after telling him she had been raped.
"We noticed that in her films there is a particular way of behaving, doing things, thinking and reacting that inspired both the youth as well as the adults. We can say that the trauma of love between people in a society, any society like ours, is built around the fantasies presented by this film," said sociologist Rodrigues Kone, trying to explain the appeal of the series on African audiences.
Many African women believe that through her character Vaidehi, Kulkarni has revealed the image and the idea that women are not objects, but that women are precious and need to be preserved.
Those messages appear to remain intact despite crossing from India into some of Muslim Africa, and being dubbed from Hindi into French. Fans say the cultural similarities between Indian and African culture, and in particular a strong emphasis on family, means they still resonate.
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