The biggest Bollywood release of this week was not in India, but in China. Aamir Khan’s mega-hit Dangal opened across 10,000 screens in China, which is also the biggest market for Hollywood films outside America.
Incidentally, before this, the Aamir Khan starrer-PK had collected some Rs 140 crore in China, the highest overseas collection by an Indian film, and it got less than 5,000 screens. And still earlier, in 2011, it was again an Aamir Khan film, 3 Idiots, that had a significant release in China. It was the first Hindi film in more than four decades to release in the neighbouring country.
The extent of Bollywood fan frenzy in China can be gauged from the fact that Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, was abuzz with angry posts on the decision by Wanda, the biggest cinema chain in China, to give very few shows to Dangal. Wanda reportedly has a monopoly in some of the smaller Chinese towns, meaning a lot of fans might miss watching the movie immediately after the release. Fans speculated on the reasons behind this.
But aside from that, the release of Dangal has highlighted how ‘Made in India’ or rather ‘Made in Bollywood’ has caught on in China. Salman Khan’s Eid release Tubelight may get a China release as well, as might Tiger Shroff’s Baaghi 2, as per reports.
Even TV shows such as Naagin, Devon Ke Dev Mahadev, Mahabharat, and Buddhaa-Rajaon Ka Raja are a hit in the country. Bilibili, one of China’s popular video-sharing websites, recorded about 1.8 lakh views of the first four episodes of the second season of Naagin.
Rules and regulations got in the way earlier
“After PK’s phenomenal success in China, and now that The Fast and the Furious 8 (aka The Fate of the Furious) has done better in China than in America, China seems to be the next destination for Bollywood films. Goes without saying that China has a huge market to be explored,” says trade analyst Taran Adarsh.
“Aamir Khan is a hugely recognised and loved actor in China. Dangal’s release this Friday has a footprint of 10,000-plus screens, a never-before [occurrence] for any Hindi Film. PK had released with half the number of screens and made a whooping 140-plus crore in China,” says a spokesperson for the film.
The prospects for Tubelight seem quite bright as well — the film’s female lead is a Chinese actor. The makers of Tubelight plan to release the film in China in a grand way, reports suggest. “Given the film has a Chinese connect (in actor Zhu Zhu) it will help,” adds Adarsh.
The size of the Chinese population and the growing affluence of the Chinese are what make the country so lucrative, just the way India is growing in importance for Hollywood. However, the rules and regulations of the Chinese market are complex, and that acted as a barrier for most Bollywood until now. According to an earlier report in HT Mint, the Chinese market has 25,000 screens, but the country only allowed 34 foreign film releases in a year, and about 90 per cent of those were from Hollywood.
Among other Bollywood films released in China was Dhoom 3 (which also starred Aamir Khan, in a double role). And while Bahubali 2: The Conclusion is breaking box-office records in India, Bahubali: The Beginning had done roaring business in China after its July 2016 release.
Salman may tour Chinese cities
Tubelight director Kabir Khan says that the film’s team is looking at every possibility to strike it big in China. “We are currently working towards the release,” says the director. Interestingly, Salman Khan, who doesn’t do city tours anymore in India to promote his films, may promote Tubelight in key Chinese cities.
Kabir says that if things work out for Tubelight, then he will release his next films in China as well. “Yes, China has a great market,” he adds, “and I would love to release my films there. Why just me? I’m sure more and more Indian filmmakers would love to release their films in China.”
Baaghi 2 to be shot in China?
Meanwhile, sources close to the Baaghi 2 team informs that the action drama is also planning a Chinese release. “Yes, there are plans of releasing it in China. We’ll be travelling to the country end of this year to shoot portions of the film there. Local artists will also be roped in for the project,” adds the source.
Larger-than-life and content-driven films will do well in the Chinese market, says trade analyst Komal Nahata. “Films that have done well in India would do well in China. Their sensibilities and tastes are pretty similar to Indians. Not just big Bollywood stars, even films having not-so-popular actors, if they have good content, would do well. But I think the market will take some time to grow,” says Nahata.
During the Beijing International Film Festival, Aamir Khan was quoted as saying that he feels more connected to the Chinese culture than the West. He also mentioned that it would be good if films utilising creative talent from China and India got made.
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