New Delhi: Aamir Khan just upped the ante again. His musical drama production Secret Superstar may have stopped at earnings of Rs63.40 crore in India despite a festive Diwali release, but the film has just opened to a massive response in China, building on Khan’s reputation there. Since its Friday release in the country, the Advait Chandan-directed film has made Rs174.10 crore, crossing its lifetime business in India by a huge margin.
It’s interesting to note that at Rs43.35 crore, Secret Superstar beat the first day collections of Khan’s sports drama blockbuster Dangal (Rs14.67 crore), which is currently the highest-grossing Indian film in China. The Nitesh Tiwari-directed film had made close to Rs2,000 crore in China.
“The film has notched up phenomenal numbers in China, debuting at the number one position over the weekend," said Atul Mohan, editor of trade magazine Complete Cinema. “All thanks to the reputation Aamir Khan has built there, springing up a second blockbuster barely a few months after Dangal."
To be sure, films like Secret Superstar and Dangal add to the reputation Khan has in China for good, entertaining cinema. After PK (Rs123 crore) and 3 Idiots (Rs16 crore), which the actor promoted in the country personally, the audience there has come to relate to Khan, much like Raj Kapoor who had emerged as a brand ambassador for India in Russia in the 1950s.
The two movies also add to the substantial list of Indian films whose earnings in China surpass their domestic collections, pointing not just to the emergence of a new market but also the limitations of one’s own.
For one, as Mohan said, China has almost quadrupled its screen count in the last few years, going up to 45,000 screens 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. Khan’s satirical comedy PK was released in about 4,000 screens, while Dangal managed 9,000, nearly double its India screen count. S.S. Rajamouli’s blockbuster war epic Baahubali: The Beginning had released in about 6,000 screens in China.
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. However, the focus on local production remains and the foreign film quota is still restricted to about 30 a year, divided between Hollywood and other industries products.
“But a lot of Hollywood studios are now tying up with local Chinese film production companies to bypass that rule," said film trade and exhibition expert Girish Johar. For example, China Film Corp. backed action film Fast and Furious 8, ensuring a smoother release and better returns in the key Chinese market. Even an American studio like Universal Pictures has an office in Shanghai today.
Most importantly, though, Indian film stories resonate with local Chinese audience. Earlier used to Hollywood spectacles and local mythologicals and costume dramas, the emotional connect of a Hindi film is often great.
“The market was always there but I think audience have become more receptive lately," Johar said. “The entire mindset has changed where they are less strict and trying to educate themselves with good cinema from other industries."