Bengaluru, India – An elderly influencer. A young woman. A well-known actress. A popular model. Wearing bold red bindis on their foreheads, they all dressed as the lead character from Bollywood superstar Alia Bhatt’s latest film, Gangubai Kathiawadi, in viral Instagram posts last month.
Over-the-top tributes to actors are common for the Indian movie industry. But these fans, many of them public figures themselves, are not Indian: They’re from Thailand.
Indian films have long been popular in parts of Africa and the Middle East, apart from countries with large South Asian diaspora populations such as the United States, United Kingdom and Malaysia. But Thailand’s relationship with Bollywood has mostly been limited to the use of the Southeast Asian nation’s idyllic beaches as backdrops for scenes.
Now, as cinema globally tries to claw its way back to pre-COVID-19 revenues,…