Till a few years ago, a Bollywood film would find its way to the Chinese market once in a while. But in the last couple of years, several films have not only released in China but have also become box-office hits.
Aamir Khan’s Dangal earned over $169 million in China and became the highest grossing non-Hollywood film ever. Aamir’s Secret Superstar also earned a top spot at the Chinese box office, beating Sony’s remake of Jumanji and 21st Century Fox’s Ferdinand. This was followed by Irrfan Khan’s Hindi Medium which opened in almost 8,000 screens and collected close to Rs 42 crores in two days.
Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan released during the annual Chinese Lantern Festival and in less than two weeks since its release, the movie raked in over $ 25 million. S S Rajamouli’s Baahubali 2 made a great debut and earned Rs 19 crores on Day 1. Akshay Kumar’s Toilet Hero (Toilet: Ek Prem Katha) made over Rs 15 crores on its opening day.
The moolah raked in by Hindi films goes on to show that our films strike a chord with the Chinese audience. This is just the beginning. Experts believe that if India gets to screen more films in China, they will be able to make better business. Explaining the trend, trade analyst Atul Mehra says, “Right now, we can release only 5-6 Indian films in a year because the Chinese want to promote their own films. Four years back, China had 9,000 screens across the country and now with the support of the government, they have 35,000 screens, which is way higher than India’s. If we get to release more films there, we will be able to do better business.”
He adds that small producers cannot afford to release their films in China. “The big producers, who are in touch with authorities there, can promote and release their films,” says Atul.
A big market
Industry experts are happy with the kind of business Indian films are doing overseas because it’s only helping the industry. Filmmaker Omung Kumar says that China is a new market for us which is turning out to be quite profitable. “We have just reached a small number but that too is turning profitable. It’s opened a new collaboration and a new avenue for us, and everyone is trying to make the most of this avenue. I think the trend will continue,” he says.
Vibha Chopra, head, Zee Studios International (Film Marketing, Distribution, and Acquisition), believes that China is a growing market whose taste is changing and evolving rapidly.
One would wonder what works in favour of Indian films. Maybe the music and dance. But industry experts believe that the two countries share similar traditions and cultures, and therefore our films connect with their audience.
Omung says, “Indians and Chinese have similar cultures. Except kung fu, our human stories like family values and aspirations are similar.”
Apoorva Mehta, CEO Dharma Production, believes that the lifestyle of Indians is quite similar to that of the Chinese. “When it comes to population, education, climate, employment... they are facing similar problems. They have a large number of middle class families just like us. Bollywood films, which worked there highlighted these issues. They are universal problems. Therefore, the connect has been strong as they give a social message to the audience.” He adds that even a heart warming love story will find an audience there.
Vibha adds, “We are very similar to them in ways more than one, so relating to our traditions and films is not challenging for the market. Moreover, the strong performances and interesting storylines only add to the interest.”
Adding to this, Atul says that stories which have an emotional content connects with the audience. “The reason Dangal worked is because just like in India, people in China too dream of winning the Olympics. Every family there trains their child to compete at the Olympics. We not only share similar cultures but dreams too.”
Aamir, the poster boy
Actor-producer-director Aamir Khan is one of the most popular Bollywood celebs in China. His films including Three Idiots! and PK have become huge hits. In fact, he has become the poster boy there. All his films have become highest grossers. Atul says, “He created the same impact in China that Jackie Chan did in India for Chinese films. Aamir has become one of the most popular faces there.”
The Indian Government even plans to appoint Aamir as a brand ambassador to boost trade between the two countries. There are reports about China supporting the move, though an official announcement is yet to be made. He is also the new face of Chinese products, including a well-known mobile phone brand.
This is indeed a big push to the Indian film industry and many believe that the frequency of releases in China is increasing now.