Why is Aamir Khan’s Dangal so popular in China? As the film continues to reach new heights on China Box Office, this one question has baffled many Indians like nothing else in the last few weeks. In China alone, the Aamir Khan starrer has earned over Rs 1100 crore. Not only this, the Nitesh Tiwari-directorial has surpassed the $300 million mark to become the fifth non-English movie in history to reach this milestone. The tremendous success of the film, which was released in China four months after its India release, has not just proven the popularity of India’s culture and films in China but also highlighted a common ground on which both countries can build their ties to new heights.
Dangal tells the story of wrestler Mahavir Phogat and his daughters’ struggle to become famous wrestlers. It seems, the Chinese have developed a fondness for the plot. More so because issues like rural-urban divide and gender ratio issues affect China as much as they do India. Both countries face internal development challenges and what is more they can be partners to address them in near future.
Cheng Cheng, associate research fellow, Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China, writes in Chinese state media, Global Times, “The bilateral relationship between China and India has long been portrayed as either “Chindia,” opposing the West, or as a rivalry, representing different ideologies. But the most urgent challenges for the two countries are the same: growing their national economies and making sure their huge populations benefit.”
“This is probably the reason why Aamir Khan’s new movie, which tells the story of how a countryside girl struggles to become an international wrestling champion, got so much praise in China, a country that also suffers from a severe urban-rural gap and gender ratio problem,” he adds.
Cheng further writes that “the biggest issue” for both countries in the foreseeable future will be “domestic development rather than competing with each other.” “From rural development to higher education, from manufacturing to out-sourcing industry, China and India both have much to learn from each other.”
Recently at the SCO summit in Astana, Chinese President Xi Jinping told PM Narendra Modi that he watched and loved Dangal. The statement coming from the top Chinese leader tells a lot not just about the popularity of the movie but also the fact that Indians and Chinese can like each other, reach points of mutual agreement and compete, if needed, in a friendly way.
Recently, there has been concerns over China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or OBOR (One Belt One Road), in India. New Delhi has refused to participate in China’s most ambitious project that passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, an Indian territory. However, Cheng says that BRI can “act as a perfect platform not only to communicate ideas but also to channel resources into the right places for the two economies.”
With OBOR, he says both countries can collaborate to defend globalisation at a time when some countries have resorted to “non-market measures such as trade barriers and immigration bans, as we have seen in the past two years.”
Chen concludes: “Since 2000, China and India have been deepening their bilateral relationship and together leading the BRICS forward. Considering the trend of anti-globalization in the West, China and India actually have shared common interests to act as twin pillars, keeping globalization strong. This is the most significant basis for the bilateral relationship.”