This phenomenon began with Aamir Khan's 3 Idiots, directed by Rajkumar Hirani. It never got released in China but was a surprise hit in Hong Kong making $3 million.
Last year, in China, an unimaginable race took place in which the tale of 14-year-old Muslim girl from India was pitched against an epic on American Jedi. The result shocked, not just China and India, but the world. Hindi movie Secret Superstar surpassed mega Hollywood release “Star Wars: Last Jedi” at the Chinese Box Office.
Secret Superstar was not the first film to storm dragon’s citadel. It was another Aamir Khan film Dangal that drew the biggest numbers. Based on the real life story of a family of wrestlers, Khan’s Dangal made $190 million at the Chinese box. It is currently 31st in the list of top 50 highest grossing foreign films in China, ahead of Hollywood biggies like Captain America: Civil War, Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, xXx: Return of Xander Cage, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.
According to the Bloomberg, Dangal’s march in China also surpassed the numbers achieved by any foreign film in North America. It surprised international observers. Dangal, though, only harvested years of careful positioning of Indian cinema at Chinese box office.
What is making Chinese movie-lovers pick a bollywood flick over massive global release like “Star wars”? Bloomberg quoted China’s News Agency Xinhua as saying in its editorial: “Chinese filmgoers’ appreciation of Aamir Khan’s films reflect the common aesthetic pursuit of the two countries, which should be extended from the cultural aspect to broader areas, including politics and the economy.”
China and India share broad similarities in culture and values. There Asian value system places importance on family, education and jobs, etc., is same. Both countries are ancient civilisations and have a deep cultural history. Both countries have gone through similar ups and downs, people face similar day-to-day struggles. They have gone through rapid changes in terms of economic growth, changes in traditions due to the opening of their economies, their similar discomfort to it and economic disparities are same as well.
Bollywood seems to have cracked the secret recipe for success in China. Humour blended with social message and some garnishing of reality, drama and empathy. Not to forget solid subtitles and/or dubbing which captures the true emotions of the story in local languages. Chinese related to Indian stories and their sensibility matches with their southern neighbour. The story of a young singer from India made money despite its release during the height of Doklam standoff last year.
Another Bollywood hit in China, Irrfan Khan’s Hindi Medium, also pointed to the similarities that China shares with India, and not with America. China’s Global Times newspaper quoted a social media user as saying, “Chinese parents, especially from big cities, go through the same anxiety which is shown in the movie. They also run into many barriers and embarrassing situations while choosing schools for their wards.”
Talking to Hollywood reporter, Prasad Shetty, one of Secret Superstar’s producers and someone who promotes ties between Beijing and Bollywood, said, “Secret Superstar’s success proved that Bollywood films are no joke. Everyone in Indian cine industry has woken up to the fact that this phenomenon is here to stay for a longer period of time.”
This phenomenon began with Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots, directed by Rajkumar Hirani. It never got released in China but was a surprise hit in Hong Kong making $3 million. It is a big sum for a non-Hollywood, non-Chinese film. The positive word-of-mouth generated by its success in the island city reached the mainland and 3 Idiots became a widely pirated movie there.
Later, in 2014 China’s Film Bureau handed India a major boost by signing an official co-production treaty. It encouraged Bollywood filmmakers and distributors to consider China as a potential and viable market for the first time. Aamir Khan’s satirical sci-fi flick PK was Bollywood’s first wide theatrical release and earned a whopping $19.4 million in China.
From Lagaan, which made inroads into the Chinese market in 2002, to Secret Superstar, Aamir Khan has become a household name in China. A user of Duoban, a Chinese social media site, wrote that for him, Aamir Khan’s name is like a golden pass. “If he is in a film, I’m watching it,” the user wrote.
Though, Beijing’s bromance with bollywood, is not limited to Aamir Khan. Salman Khan’s 2015 flick Bajrangi Bhaijaan, released in 8,000 cinemas across China. Bhai’s movie earned $2.8 million on its very first day!
The latest movie to churn big numbers in China is Rani Mukherjee’s Hichki. On Monday, trade analyst Taran Adarsh tweeted, “#Hichki is on the threshold of ₹ 150 cr mark… Yes, you read it right… #Hichki has crossed $ 20 million mark [Day 24] in #China and is all set to cross ₹ 150 cr mark, as you read this [Day 25]… Total till 4 Nov 2018: $ 20.39 mn [₹ 148.79 cr]… Power of solid content!”
#Hichki is on the threshold of ₹ 150 cr mark… Yes, you read it right… #Hichki has crossed $ 20 million mark [Day 24] in #China and is all set to cross ₹ 150 cr mark, as you read this [Day 25]… Total till 4 Nov 2018: $ 20.39 mn [₹ 148.79 cr]… Power of solid content!
— taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) November 5, 2018
Directed by Siddharth P Malhotra, Hichki made decent numbers on Indian box office. Its lifetime collection Rs 46.21 crore. In China, it tripled its numbers. The secret behind its success is same as Bollywood’s earlier hits in China. Great content, humour & satire, empathy and a social message which struck an instant chord with the Chinese audiences.
Here is the list of Highest Grossing Indian Movies in China:
Dangal: 1220 crore
Secret Superstar: 736 crore
Bajrangi Bhaijaan: 295 crore
Hindi Medium: 218 crore
Hichki: 150 crore
It seems that the bromance of Bollywood and Beijing has crossed the Himalayas that divide these two ancient nations and the soft-power of cinema will help more in cultural exchanges and people to people contacts between the Asian giants.