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Home / Bollywood / ‘Dangal is like story of Chinese village girl becoming Olympic champion’

‘Dangal is like story of Chinese village girl becoming Olympic champion’

Aamir Khan‘s Dangal made about Rs 20 crore from 7,000 screens on its first day of release in China and audiences and critics are raving about the movie.

bollywood Updated: May 06, 2017 15:29 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
Aamir Khan on the poster of Dangal.
Aamir Khan on the poster of Dangal. (HT Photo)

Not in recent history has anything India-related created a stir in China such as Dangal seems to be have within two days of its release - no, not even the Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh.

Aamir Khan‘s latest movie made about Rs 20 crore ($3.11 million) on its first day of release on May 5 from some 7,000 screens – nearly five times the box office earnings of the last popular Indian movie, PK.

But let’s not talk about the box office in isolation. The Fate Of The Furious, the latest instalment in the Fast And The Furious series, has made some $377 million in China, becoming the highest grossing Hollywood movie in the country.

Let’s also keep it in the context of Indian movies in a country with a tiny Indian diaspora, where many still equate Bollywood with song and dance routines.

Even the mighty Baahubali: The Beginning’s performance wasn’t happy when it was released here last year - it burnt out faster than Bhallala Deva on the pyre.

It helped that Aamir’s earlier movies have done well in China and he was here last month for a high-profile promotional tour.

But Dangal seems to have found that rare connect with Chinese audiences, who usually gorge on Hollywood blockbusters, fantasy or martial art movies and sleek Hong Kong police stories.

Besides reports of Chinese audiences spontaneously giving standing ovations at the end of screenings, no Indian movie has seen ratings of 9.8 on the ticket-purchasing app Maoyan.

There were more than 68,000 comments on Dangal on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, by Saturday afternoon and the film was among Weibo’s “hot topics”.

On WeChat, the popular mobile phone app, users were sharing their experiences of watching the movie and telling their friends to go and watch it.

The movie’s central theme - that girls are as good as boys - seems to resonate in China, which like India is a patriarchal society.  

Some reactions were surprisingly emotional and revealed the movie had touched a sensitive chord, among Chinese audiences.

“It made me think of my father. His reticent love for us. I wanted to call him, say nothing, just cry, and cry like a river to release myself from my deep regrets. But who can tell me his number in the other world,” a senior academic with a top Chinese think-tank told Hindustan Time while sharing the experience of watching Dangal.

The academic continued: “It also made my son reach some understanding about his always pushy father. Thanks Dangal. Thanks, Aamir Khan. I have to admit in these prosperous times, China’s movie industry spends so much while it wins too little with many showy stars, no artist shining. Shame.”

Tan Zheng , editor of Diangying Yishu (Film Art) magazine, while explaining the connect that Chinese audiences might have found with the movie, said: “It is like the story of a Chinese village girl becoming an Olympic champion.

“Indian films are usually good at song and dance. But the director used music very naturally. And the music helps the film’s narrative successfully, especially in the parts of the last match.”

“Poison Tongue”, one of China’s more influential online film critics, was full of praise for the Indian movie.

“This is a great film. Two-and-half hours did not seem long at all. The pacing and emotional build-up were explosively well executed. Not a single plot point overly sentimental, which resolved the traditional problem of inspirational sports films being drowned in suffering. This is not just a great film,” Poison Tongue’s review said.

Dangal is likely to break PK’s record of the first Indian movie to make Rs 100 crore ($15.55 million) in China. But it seems to have already breached the level of expectations about Indian movies here – it will be a few notches higher from now on.