Obama’s speechwriter clearly loves Bollywood (as does Modi)

Obama, with a Bollywood touch.
Obama, with a Bollywood touch.
Image: AP Photo/Saurabh Das
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Last year, Narendra Modi’s ability to quote from a Hollywood film was the subject of much admiration (and ridicule).

At the Global Citizen Concert in New York’s Central Park last September, the Indian prime minister concluded his speech with the few famous words from the iconic American sci-fi series, Star Wars: “May the force be with you.”

This time, it was US president Barack Obama’s turn to make a film-related comeback.

Before a packed house at New Delhi’s Siri Fort auditorium, Obama skillfully name dropped one of Bollywood’s most adored actors, Shah Rukh Khan—and even quoted from his iconic Bollywood film, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. 

“Senorita, bade bade deshon mein [in big countries],” said Obama, “… you know what I mean.”

Yes, we do. The popular (and hackneyed) dialogue has lived on for more than two decades with Bollywood fans—and that was more than evident as the audience laughed, hooted and applauded.

For that, Obama’s speechwriter must have patted himself on his back—though some suspected it could have been a Bollywood inside job.

Then, Obama spoke about Shah Rukh Khan’s mass following in the same breath as he called for tolerance towards people’s varied faiths and religions (Timestamp: 1:09:40).

The speech even recalled the greatness of Indian sportsmen, sprinter Milkha Singh and boxing star Mary Kom—both featured in Bollywood biopics.

“Every Indian should celebrate the success of Shah Rukh Khan, Mary Kom, Milkha Singh equally, not by the colour of skin, or worship,” he said.

And if his speech wasn’t enough, the event planners decided to invoke some more Bollywood spirit as the US president and the first lady left the stage. Thankfully, it wasn’t Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire—the tune of choice at US-India events nowadays. Instead, O Mitwa, Sun Mitwa from Aamir Khan’s 2001 film Lagaan was piped out.

But not everyone was impressed.

The parting shot, however, came from the Indian prime minister himself.