Home >Industry >Media >India banks on Bollywood’s star appeal to improve ties with China

NEW DELHI : India is looking to place its ties with China on firm footing by exploiting the appeal from Bollywood, its soft power tool, among the Chinese.

One indication of this is that Shah Rukh Khan, who was present at the China-India Film Co-production Dialogue, sat down with the delegations in Beijing on Thursday, posts on the Twitter showed.

The idea of India and China co-producing films is not new. However, the power wielded by Indian films in China and its possibility of acting as a bridge between the people of the two countries was highlighted by China’s Xi Jinping when he played host to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Wuhan.

The meeting, billed as an informal summit between the two leaders, was organized last year to stabilize ties rocked by the 73-day military standoff at the Doklam plateau--the unresolved boundary dispute since 1962 when India and China fought a brief but bloody border conflict.

There is a need for the people of India and China to become familiar with each other’s cultures to get to know each other better, Modi said in his opening remarks at the Wuhan summit. Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale briefing reporters after the Wuhan Summit had said that Xi had told Modi that he had seen a number of Indian films, “and that it would be a good idea to expand this and more Indian film should come to China and more Chinese film should go to India."

At a banquet hosted for Modi on 27 April, the Chinese side rolled out some Bollywood numbers, one of which was the musical version of a 1982 romantic number Tu,Tu Hai Wahi Dil Ne Jise Apna Kaha.The song composed by R.D. Burman, is from the 1982 film Yeh Vaada Raha, sung by Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle for a sequence featuring Rishi Kapoor and Poonam Dhillon.

Indian films had been popular in China in the 1970s but thereafter, it was ruined by video-sharing websites and piracy. Starting 2011, the success story, so far, has been majorly driven by Aamir Khan-starrers. While his sports drama Dangal, currently the highest-grossing Indian film in China, has made close to 1,200 crore, his musical production Secret Superstar earned around 760 crore. Other superhits include PK ( 123 crore) and 3 Idiots ( 16 crore). Other films, such as Irrfan Khan’s Hindi Medium ( 223 crore) and black comedy Andhadhun ( 237 crore), have also tested success.

The massive screen count is an important factor for Indian films to have managed such impressive theatrical returns in China, according to industry experts.

The country almost quadrupled its screen count in the last few years, from around 10,000. 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. India, on the other hand, works with 9,000-odd cinemas divided between single screens and multiplexes. The average ticket price in China is $12, compared to $1.5 in India. Most, importantly, before Indian films broke out, the Chinese market was used to either Hollywood spectacles or local Chinese fantasies and mythologicals. Indian stories with their emotional connect and storytelling, have proven to be a refreshing change.

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