India and China may be enemies at the border but they do share a common love – Aamir Khan – and through him the entire Bollywood Jingbang. The dragon country is feasting on our movies and dancing to our tunes, quite literally.
China has become the biggest overseas market for Indian movies, helping rake in moolah much beyond our imagination. This despite not having a sizeable Indian diaspora there like in the US. Such is the scope that Chinese companies are now shifting their gaze from West to East, lapping up anything that has Bollywood written on it.
A lot of credit for this cross-border love goes to Aamir Khan. For starters, his movie Lagaan became the first Indian movie to get a nationwide release in China, ending the two decades long dry spell of Bollywood releases. Then came 3 idiots, Dhoom 3, PK, Dangal and Secret Superstar that floored the Chinese and sealed the love for India’s Mr Perfectionist. His immense popularity not only garnered him an ardent fan following but also opened up the market for the Mumbai film industry.
China’s growing craze is evident from their box office collection, where Bollywood movies set the cash registers ringing way louder than what they do in India
Setting some Chinese records
Aamir Khan’s Dangal shattered all box office records in China, becoming not just the second highest grossing foreign film that year but also earning a spot in the top 20 highest-grossing films of all time. His second movie Secret Superstar became the highest grossing foreign film in the first quarter of 2018. In fact, its collection in the first week of its release is the highest for any Indian film so far, eclipsing even Hollywood mega-hits like Avatar.
Salman Khan also managed to turn heads this year with his Bajrangi Bhaijan act. The movie titled Little Lolita Monkey God Uncle, surpassed Star wars -The last Jedi to become the seventh highest grossing film in the first quarter, that too within a month of its release.
So why are Indian movies creating such waves in China?
The answer lies in the shared cultural DNA of the two countries. Indian films’ take on real-life issues like gender equality, discrimination, parental pressures etc resonates strongly with Chinese audiences who are all too familiar with these social aspects. So do the portrayal of family values and patriotism.
Furthermore, Indian movies with their songs and dance are a breath of fresh air for Chinese movie-goers who have grown up watching the same old local and Hollywood movies for the longest time and were eager for a change. And change is what they got from their much loved Uncle Aamir, who filled this gap perfectly.
The Golden Economics
China is a gold mine not just for Bollywood filmmakers and distributors but for other movie industries too. Even big-ticket Hollywood movies like Transformers: Age of Extinction, Terminator Genysis, Expendables 3, Kung Fu Panda 3 that did bad to average business back home ended up making good money due to their Chinese release.
There are a few factors that make the world’s second-largest film market, such a huge influencer. One of the biggest is the mammoth number of screens in the country.
China has 9 times more movies screens than India. The sheer number of people buying tickets and watching movies is enough to swing the number game
The Chinese love watching movies on the big screen and there is a growing demand for more screens despite the abundance. Also, considering the population, a big release usually draws huge crowds massively boosting ticket sales.
Playing Chinese Checkers
The scope for Indian movies to generate huge revenues is bright with China by its sides. Yet, doing that is not as easy considering the many challenges.
To protect its domestic film industry, the Chinese government limits the number of foreign films releasing in the country to just 34 films a year. Of this India gets a quota of up to 5 films a year, the remaining mostly dominated by Hollywood productions. Then there is the long drawn censorship and other regulatory issues. Not forgetting the unpredictable relations between the two countries that can affect the movie trade-off agreement rather abruptly.
In spite of these issues, the success story has been sweet so far and it has only just begun. The future may even see fortune shine upon India’s regional film industries as well, some of which are known for their strong original content and are as powerful as Bollywood.
It is often said that films break cultural barriers between nations. China is not just getting a glimpse into our way of life, they also can’t seem to get enough of it. Whoever said taming the dragon was not possible.