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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 November, 2004, 16:18 GMT
Bollywood accused over suicides
Bollywood posters
Bollywood films are popular with ethnic Indians
A leading ethnic Indian politician in Malaysia has blamed Bollywood films for encouraging many in her community to commit suicide or turn to alcohol.

G Vimalah Nair says many Malaysians of Indian origin are trapped in poverty and face family break-ups.

A recent spate of suicides and family killings has led some to blame the Indian film industry.

But experts have rejected the claims: "It's a complete generalisation," said Indu Mirani, a box office analyst.

Escape

For thousands of Malaysians of Indian origin, movies are not just a main source of entertainment, they are a means of escape from lives often constrained by poverty and marred by violence.

Ms Vimalah, who heads the Women's Development Bureau of the MIC, the community's main political party, says that Bollywood films leave many impressionable young people with unattainable dreams.

Though Bollywood films traditionally feature glamour, romance and extravagant dance sequences, some also show men taking to the bottle and women taking their own lives.

Ms Vimalah and her colleagues say that as a result these have become common responses to people's problems.

She wants movie makers to set a better example.

Influence

Ms Mirani, box office trade analyst for Bollywood Films, agreed that Bollywood films are often highly aspirational and unrealistic.

But, she failed to see how a popular film like Mujhse Shaadi Karogi could influence a person to commit suicide.

Of the more violent films on offer, Ms Mirani said gangster-style Bollywood films are simply too fantastical to have any bearing on the real lives of cinema-goers.

She said politicians needed to look beyond the movies, to wider sociological problems in the community.

The predominantly Tamil-speaking community's schools are poorly funded and Malaysian Indians often end up in low-paid jobs, says the BBC's Malaysia correspondent Jonathan Kent.

The MIC's women's bureau is also concerned that many couples do not register their marriages, which makes family break-ups more common.

The party is calling for more resources to be put into education to help address these issues.


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