Beating a Brazilian Path to India

Last summer, I posted about my experiences Desi Spotting in Brazil and observed that “despite my lack of desi human spottings, there was no dearth of Indian influence—mostly of the exotic India variety—to be found in Brazil.”

I’m revisiting this topic today, thanks to Sepia reader Vijay, who shot me an email from Rio a couple of weeks ago. “Omg–have you heard of this Brazilian soap opera about an indian family?” he wrote. “A sepia investigation is in order.”

It certainly was! And, here’s what I dug up, with a little help from Vijay.indias.jpg

Since January 19th, Brazilian TVs (approximately 60,000 households just in Sao Paulo) evenings have been tuned to a new telenovela six nights a week. Camhino das Indias (Path of India) “examines beliefs and values that differentiate the Eastern and Western world” and follows the story of a forbidden love between a Brazilan man (whom I understand to be a yoga instructor) and an Indian woman from a conservative family. The drama was filmed with a budget with a mostly Brazilian cast on a budget of $80 million in Jaipur, Agra, Dubai, and Rio (where two Indian towns were constructed for production purposes!).

Backpacking Ninja, a desi blogger traveling through India describes it thus:

With Portuguese actors all dressed in extremely jatak (gaudy) Indian clothes (looking thoroughly North Indian), speaking Portuguese, it’s a total riot. I laughed so much watching one episode. The episode was a wedding….. the background music that was playing in the wedding as they did the saath phere (sacred walk around the fire symbolizing marriage) was Kajra re (one of the most popular songs to play in dance bars in India). It’s almost like playing Shakiras ‘Hips dont lie’ when someone is walking down the aisle in a church. In another scene, the heroine Maya (Juliana Paes) walked over to the buffet table and made eye contact with the hero Bahuan (Marcio Garcia, and trying to be Indian in all ways possible, they showed a dream sequence of them holding hands… not in person.

The opener features Sukhwinder Singh’s “Beedi” and is intended to show off the “cultural diversity that exists in the country,” according to creative director Roberto Stein. I’ll let you be the judge of that. Whatever your opinion (“this exoticizes India yet again” or “this is great for Indian tourism” or “wtf?”), I think that you’ll agree that your eyes will stay glued to it.

For those who want more (I certainly did!), beneath the fold, I’ve added clips from episode one.The show’s creators are going all out with their aim of educating Brazilians about India and her cultural and religious traditions. The official blog features posts on Hindu gods and goddesses and scriptures, the history of India, and Bollywood cinema, as well as recipes (gulab jamun, anyone?)!

Episode one begins on what seem to be the banks of the River Ganga. The soundtrack is a Portugese pop song about sadhus from what I could make out and then, we meet a Portugese-speaking Sadhu type who explains various Hindu traditions to some Brazilian visitors!

In the same episode, the initial meeting of the two lovers (anyone else see a resemblance to Aishwarya Rai in Maya?) takes place at a temple … and you really don’t have to speak Portugese to understand the rest (the Bollywood soundtrack does a lot of the work!)

And, I’ll end with … the kiss that wasn’t.

63 thoughts on “Beating a Brazilian Path to India

  1. Why are tribe people in Brazil and Peru called “Indians”? Is it because of that whole thing about the 1st white people to come to the Americas, thought it was India so all native Americans are called “Indians”

    On another note: yes, the use of ‘Indian’ for Native American totally bugs me. Is it ok to correct someone when “they are talking about Native Americans as ‘Indians’ in front of me (I am Indian from India) ?

    These and all other posts regarding how Brazilians refer to their tribes people as “Indians” is just one of those badly misconstrued ideas. In Portuguese there are two words, índio and indiano, both of which are mistakenly translated into “Indian” in English. Índio means indigenous, native to the land, aboriginal. Indiano means native from India. Clearly, Brazilians know the difference between indigenous and Indians. As a matter of fact, there is no way to misuse the terms in Portuguese.

    My 2¢. :)

  2. In Portuguese we have 2 diferents words that correct the mistake. Indio is a Brazilian land native. Part of primitive civilization in americas Indiano is a person borned in India. Land of Indio the florest, land of Indiano is India

  3. Sorry my English

    I living in São Paulo,the 3 or 4 bigger city in the word, the principal Brazilian city.12million peopple living here. Rio de Janeiro is very nice, and because of this, tourists come to there. But, because business, S.Paulo receive twice foreigns. Beach is a 1 hour far The carnaval is a half week a year. The Amazon is very far from Rio and Sao Paulo But the word think that I am living among monkeys, I just eat bananas, everyday I dance Samba( I hate Samba),my wife is almost naked, football is my job, and Buenos Aires (Argentina Capital) is a Brazilian city. Look the videos.This is the vision about brazilians?

    Than, dont worry. If I get wrong Idea of India. With us occour this too

    Africa, India, Brazil Are not thar Word think that are

  4. Hi,

    I am from The Netherlands in Europe and love Brasil and the beautiful people and was several times in Rio de Janeiro and hope to be there in October/November this year 2009. I am very interested in the culture from India and the Middle East and I am wondering how many Desi’s and their descendants are living now in Rio de Janeiro as immigrants who have started a new life there. Please can you respond and confirm reading my comments because I did sent e-mails to the Embassy of India in Brazil but did not receive any response to date.

    Kindly Regards,

    Cees Koster. Address: Tarbot 106, Residence: 2986 ND Ridderkerk, a small town close to the Worldport of Rotterdam in The Netherlands, Europe.

  5. Hi, I’m brasilian.

    I just Would like to say thanks. This is a great post, I love it.

    About Freida Pinto, it is not Brazilian? really? I would be able to swear that she was. :) Bye.

  6. Hi, I’m brasilian.

    I just Would like to say thanks. This is a great post, I love it.

    About Freida Pinto, she is not Brazilian? really? I would be able to swear that she was. :) Bye.

  7. I’m a Brazilian living in the USA (21 years), I have traveled all over the world including Asia. India was a distant destination on my must visit before I dye list. Now that I have see the customs pictured here in this soap I have placed India in the pole position. Love the vegetable dishes, I don’t eat meat…never liked the taste perhaps in my other life I was and Indian. On the soap they do speak some worlds like TIKI, NAMASTE, AREBABA After the soap I started doing Yoga and found it to be very relaxing. Namaste


  8. Hello. I am Brazilian, and I was quite curious about how this soap opera would be perceived by the people it s trying to present to Brazil. It is a difficult thing to do and many broad generalizations are made, so too many things are “lost in translation”.

    The original plot – a forbidden love between people from different castes- had to be somehow adapted as the audience ‘s response to the actor playing Raj was huge and unexpected and sort of changed the central love story.

    The author Ms Gloria Perez (and her team of co-writers) however has been doing a very important work , in my opinion, dealing with Schizophrenia , as one of the Brazilians characters is schizophrenic.

    The actors, yes, do use some Hindi expressions and I myself received a Glossary by email, explaining their meaning.

    As for the music copyrights, they were certainly paid : Globo Network is too big and wealthy here no to do so. Besides, as a marketing tool Globo normally launches 2 CDs per soap opera ( they air 6 soap operas per year, plus 2 mini series , among other programs) : a National one and an International one. For Caminho das ìndias they have launched 2 “National” ones, another one with Indian music and will probably launch the “International” one very soon. Check it at Globo soap operas are sold and presented around the world it means big business for all people envolved.

    On last Saturday episode 4 chatacters went to a movie theater, in India and watched “Jodhaa Akbar ” which I had the chance to see in a Film festival here in Sâo Paulo. The Brazilian wife of the Indian character had never seen a Bollywood film, as most of the population to which the soap opera is written for.

    Oh, just for the records, the beautiful blonde and blue eyed lady whose character is called Chiara ( an italian name not very common in Br) is a former Miss Brazil , Vera Fisher, now a popular actress.

    Bye Cybelle

  9. If anyone is curious to see this telenovela, it’s now running (in the NY area at least) at 10pm on weeknights on TeleFutura, channel 68:

    The website also has explanations of Indian fashion and architecture…

    The weird thing is, the episodes are now dubbed into Spanish, so you look at the actors lips and they are speaking Brazilian Portuguese, the audio is Spanish, and then every so often, you hear the Spanish actor’s voice saying “Achcha……” or “Theek hai”……. followed by a sentence in Castellano.

    The episode I caught a glimpse of the other day had the straight-out-of-your-basic-masala-flic boy’s parents having tea at prospective daughter-in-law’s parents’ home, with the lead character Maya being the girl in question. It was interesting to see all these Brazilians decked out in what looked like the contents of a rather gaudy and spangly sari shop. This series has the former Miss Brazil – Vera Fischer – who was also in O Clone (The Clon), which did for Morocco what Caminho das Indias is doing for India.

    Somewhere on the website, they also have this brief video “lesson” (and I use the term loosely) on Hindi:

  10. There is a romantic song in Portuguese sung while Maya and Baguan are having their romance.Then the song is interpreted by the original creators in the soap opera. Doe anyone know the name of the song in Portuguese?

  11. Hi Gil V

    About the Brazilian Song – Bajuan and Maya’s love theme, it is called ‘Não se esqueça de mim” (Don’t Forget me), sung by Nana Caymmi and one of the composers, Erasmo Carlos . Nana ( the woman) and Erasmo performed the song in a scene of the soap at Enjoy it!