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Chinese show big love for Bollywood film, 'Dangal'

Editor: Qian Ding 丨CCTV.com

05-25-2017 17:00 BJT

By Tom McGregor, CCTV.com Panview commentator and editor

The Bollywood film, 'Dangal,' is shattering box office records for a non-Hollywood flick in China. The movie, starring and produced by Aamir Khan, has raked in over US$112.5 million (RMB806 million) in ticket sales, since its release to Chinese theaters on May 5.

'Dangal' has a higher gross than in India, which had earned US$83.7 million there. The film was produced and filmed by Disney's Indian subsidiary UTV.

The story-line is set in the rural Haryana State, based on the true tale of a father - Mahavir Singh Phogat - who coaches his two daughters to compete in wrestling.

One daughter - Geeta Phogat - won the gold medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games and was the first Indian female wrestler to qualify for the Olympics.

Bollywood and the Indian media are stunned by the unexpected success of 'Dangal.'

Aamir Khan's shining star

Much of Dangal's glory in China can be attributed to the star, Aamir Khan, who played the father figure in the film. Many Chinese admire his charm and rugged good looks.

Khan has worked hard to create a strong fan base in China with multiple publicity visits to the country, opening a Sina Weibo account with 640,000 followers and growing.

Khan also starred in two Bollywood films that were released here - '3 Idiots' and 'PK,' - but both movies did not enjoy similar success in China's box office.

Undaunted, Khan stayed persistent and is recognized as one of the most celebrated non-Chinese superstar actors in the country. Some say, he’s more popular here than Hollywood A-list actors.

Another factor in Khan’s stardom would be his ability to stay true to his Indian heritage while demonstrating a close friendship with the Chinese.

Bringing drama back

In recent years, Chinese-made films and Hollywood-released flicks are loaded with state-of-the-art cinematic footage that show dazzling visual effects along with action-packed scenes.

Many of the same movies had invested so heavily on sci-fi scenery that much of the acting and plot-lines were disappointing. In other words, Chinese and Hollywood filmmakers forgot about telling a good story.

'Dangal' only cost US$20 million to produce, filmed mainly in isolated Indian farm villages, but the acting and narrative were gripping. The audience can connect with the family depicted in the movie.

Accordingly, major Indian film production companies believe drama will be the next big thing.

"We see that there is no need to outdo Hollywood. Drama works in China," Ajit Thakur, CEO of India-based Trinity Pictures told Variety. "Our first co-production will be a drama."

Bollywood trends higher

Business people investing in China's movie theater sector have witnessed the success of 'Dangal' and believe Bollywood will capture greater prosperity in the country.

"This is such an exciting opportunity," said Jack Guo, senior VP Dalian Wanda. "Chinese audiences these days are informed, interested and seeking out diversity."

Avtar Ponesar, VP of international operations Yash Raj Films, agreed, saying, "This is just the beginning of a much bigger story."

The next Bollywood film scheduled for release, according to Variety, is 'Baahubali: The Conclusion,' which has already grossed over US$220 million in worldwide ticket sales.

However, Bollywood distributors are just setting a US$20 million target for the China market.

But Bollywood faces some challenges. Made in India films tend to focus on song and dance routines that hold little appeal for Chinese audiences. We can anticipate Indian movies with drama or action that are likely to get released in China in the future.

Bollywood with Chinese characteristics

The Bollywood film industry holds a large and loyal fan base in India. But Indian producers are hoping to release films worldwide that do appeal to global audiences.

China is right next door and if they can enjoy success here that sets the stage for Bollywood to go big-time around the world.

Tmcgregorchina@yahoo.com

(The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com)

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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