New Delhi:Bollywood’s success story in China continues. Irrfan Khan’s comedy drama Hindi Medium has recorded unprecedented opening day collections of Rs24.31 crore in the neighbouring country, beating the first day earnings of blockbusters like Aamir Khan’s Dangal (Rs12.99 crore) and Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan (Rs14.61 crore).
Hindi Medium, starring Pakistani actor Saba Qamar alongside Khan and directed by Saket Chaudhary, was a sleeper hit in India, making nearly Rs70 crore in box office collections, more than tripling its Rs23 crore investment. The story of a Delhi-based couple struggling to secure admission to a fancy, English-medium institution for their daughter had impressed critics and audiences alike. The film was released on 4 April.
“When a different culture enjoys content that’s deeply rooted in our own culture, it’s exhilarating because it’s unexpected. And then it makes one realize how alike we all really are. Hindi Medium’s achievement in China truly celebrates the universal language of the film and that’s what I am so proud about," said Dinesh Vijan of Maddock Films, co-producers of the movie, in a statement.
To be sure, Hindi Medium only adds to the massive popularity Indian films have been enjoying in China lately. Last month, Salman Khan-starrer Bajrangi Bhaijaan released in China to a phenomenal response, crossing the Rs100 crore mark within a week of release. Before Kabir Khan’s cross-border drama, Bollywood’s success story in China had 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), Dhoom 3 (Rs24 crore) and 3 Idiots (Rs16 crore), which Khan had promoted in the country personally. All these have together led 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.
Industry experts have constantly pointed to a couple of factors responsible for Bollywood’s massive success in China. The country has almost quadrupled its screen count in the last few years, from around 10,000. India, on the other hand, works with 9,530 cinemas divided between single screens and multiplexes, according to the Ficci-EY media and entertainment industry report 2017. The second big factor contributing to the sky-high collections in China may be the difference in ticket rates. The average ticket price in China is $12 compared to $1.5 in India. Moreover, the age-old focus on local production remains and the foreign film quota is still restricted to about 40-50 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. Which is why, as critics reiterate, Dangal about a strong father-daughter bond or Bajrangi Bhaijaan, about a golden-hearted simpleton saving the world, have worked so well.