New Delhi: Nearly three years after its theatrical release in India, Salman Khan-starrer Bajrangi Bhaijaan is storming the box office in China. The Kabir Khan-directed film has crossed the Rs100 crore-mark within a week of release, making $18.01 million (Rs117.40 crore) at last count. When released in 2015, the film had made Rs320.34 crore in domestic box office collections.
“Bajrangi Bhaijaan continues its winning streak in China, the business on weekdays was remarkable," tweeted trade analyst Taran Adarsh, adding, “Strong word-of-mouth has translated into strong business."
To be sure, Bollywood’s success story in China, so far, has been driven single-handedly by Aamir Khan-starrers. While his sports drama Dangal, currently the highest-grossing Indian film in China, had made close to Rs1,200 crore, his musical production Secret Superstar has earned about Rs760 crore. Other superhits include PK (Rs123 crore) and 3 Idiots (Rs16 crore), which Khan had promoted in the country personally. The latter contributed to the Chinese audience looking up to him as a kind of brand ambassador for India, akin to how the Russians viewed Raj Kapoor in the 1950s.
“The audiences in China are enjoying the story and the direction (of Bajrangi Bhaijaan) which they have found very touching," said Amita Naidu, vice-president (public relations) at Eros International Media Ltd, co-producer of the movie along with Salman Khan Films.
Naidu added that China has the world’s largest cinema screen count with over 41,000 screens and with the recent successes of Indian film releases in China, there is tremendous box-office potential in one of the most promising international markets for Indian films.
Surely, the screen count is a huge factor for the long list of Indian films that have broken ground in the neighbouring country. China has almost quadrupled its screen count in the last few years, from around 10,000. India, on the other hand, works with 8,000-odd cinemas divided between single screens and multiplexes.
A big-ticket Bollywood film typically releases in 4,500-5,500 screens in China, which is also the widest possible release it can get on home ground.
The second big factor contributing to the sky-high collections may be the difference in ticket rates. The average ticket price in China is $12 compared to $1.5 in India. Since time immemorial though, the focus on local production remains and foreign film quota is still restricted to about 30 a year, divided between Hollywood and products from other industries.
But most importantly, Indian stories with their strong emotional connect have found resonance with Chinese audiences, who are used to either Hollywood spectacles or Chinese mythologicals and fantasies.
“Bajrangi Bhaijaan is just the first of the film associations Eros is exploring in China. Recognizing the significant market opportunity there, Eros is coming together with Kabir Khan for a travel drama with the working title The Zookeeper and we are confident this would be the first of many films releasing from our catalogue," said Naidu.