Aamir Khan’s Dangal is the only foreign movie in China that isn’t made in English or Chinese to hit the number 1 spot and make over 800 crores. Neha Pant, tries to decode why.
It is no secret that Bollywood has a large growing base in Asia, especially China. The recent film collaborations between the two countries such as Kung Fu Yoga and Tubelight are proof that the future of Bollywood in China is looking up, but it is Dangal that has truly sealed its fate.
Ever since releasing in the country on May 5, the movie has gone on to become the only foreign film (that isn’t made in English or Chinese) in the country to be number 1 and earn a massive 825 crore. This, despite the fact that it has no subtitles and voice-over dubbing.
China is the second largest movie market in the world (the first being the USA) and it is notorious for being picky about the foreign movies it imports each year. Most of the films that China imports are Hollywood, leaving little room for others. So it is no surprise that when Dangal finally did slip to the second spot, it was to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy 2. But what is the real reason Dangal has endured for so long, here are a few reasons.
Known as Uncle Khan, Aamir Khan is the most popular Bollywood star in China, thanks to previous hits such as PK and 3 Idiots. The success of Dangal can perhaps be put into perspective when you think about the fact that Khan’s Sina Weibo account has more followers than Prime Minister Modi—a massive 600,000 compared to Modi’s 165,000. Add to this the fact that Khan is a smart marketer and spent almost a week on promotions in China.
The central theme of Dangal is the father who pushes his daughters to achieve greatness. This a theme that resonates with the Chinese, the society is known for being overwhelmingly patriarchal and very similar to India in its conservative traditions. The fact that the film stirred a debate on feminism in China which was very similar to the questions some Indians feminists were asking is reflective of these similarities. While some feminist groups such as Jianjiao Buluo (Screaming Pepper Tribe) and Cheng Yusan (Orange Umbrella) treated a group of 120 people to a free screening of the film in Guangzhou because they loved the idea of a father supporting his daughter. In an interview to Voice of America, Edward Chan, Professor of Sociology at Hong kong Polytechnic University said that, “I think the role of the father portrayed in the movie is quite similar to the culture, especially the traditional Chinese culture.”