India wields soft power in China with ‘Dangal’
New Delhi: As of Thursday, Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal has earned $23.04 million (Rs148.67 crore) in China, overtaking not just the actor’s own 2014 release PK which made Rs123 crore in that market but also emerging as the highest grossing Indian film in that country.
Dangal was released in China on 4 May.
The Nitesh Tiwari-directed wrestling drama also beat the collections of American superhero film Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 on their sixth day in Chinese theatres, making $3.91 million compared to the Hollywood flick’s $3.5 million.
Indian offerings to have previously made a mark in China, apart from PK, include Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots and Dhoom 3, which earned Rs16 crore and Rs24 crore, respectively. S.S. Rajamouli’s Baahubali: The Beginning managed about Rs7 crore from close to 6,000 screens while Dangal released in about 9,000 screens across China.
Dangal, which earned Rs387.38 crore in India last year, was the highest grossing Indian film until the recent spectacular success of war epic Baahubali 2: The Conclusion which has made more than Rs800 crore across its four language versions.
“The huge potential of China as a movie market is definitely one thing to be noticed in this case,” said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema.
China, the second-largest movie market after the US, offers nearly 27,000-28,000 theatres and a Bollywood film typically releases in 4,500-5,500 screens, equivalent to the widest possible release in India with its 8,000-9,000 screens.
“Also, China is mostly used to huge action spectacles that Hollywood offers. If you offer them differentiated content, like an emotional father-daughter story, it connects,” Mohan said.
To be sure, only big-ticket Bollywood films that have already enjoyed a successful run in India are taken to China. Further, a big studio’s backing and resources are essential. For instance, for PK, UTV secured a distribution deal with Huaxia Film Group, a local Chinese company and aggressively marketed the film considering that Aamir Khan and director Rajkumar Hirani had become household names after their previous outing 3 Idiots. UTV was unavailable for comment.
But the picture in the China market is not entirely rosy. Several big films including Shah Rukh Khan’s Fan and Happy New Year barely made a mark there. Plus, the Chinese government prioritizes home-grown content, limiting the number of foreign films releasing in the country to 34 a year, of which nearly 90% are Hollywood productions. Non-Hollywood foreign releases make up just 1.5% of the Chinese film market.
“China is growing as a market and we hope films like Baahubali 2, when released there, will help it emerge as a steady source of income. But with China’s restrictive policy, it is a difficult market to crack for the long term,” said Girish Johar, a film trade and business expert.
In the case of films like PK, Johar pointed out, not only did the narrative resonate with Chinese audiences, the lead actor who barely does interactions in the home country went all the way to China to promote the film.
There is more coming up on the China front soon. “Apart from Baahubali 2, the other big Indian film release to look forward to in China should be Salman Khan’s Tubelight,” said Mohan. “As an Indo-Chinese co-production, it should get as wide a release as it gets in India, if not wider.”