Free Press Journal

Secret Superstar to Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Bollywood films are making waves in China


Surprisingly, the one place where Hindi movies have been raking in quite a lot of moolah is India’s frenemy, China. PREEJA ARAVIND looks at Bollywood imports that made headlines across our eastern border

Akshay Kumar-starrer ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha‘ — a film with a social message about the ills of public defecating- has had a stupendous run in China, much like its success in India. The popularity of this social comedy-drama has proven that the Chinese do love the off-the-beaten-path movies made in India. Released as ‘Toilet Hero’ in 11,500 screens across China, the film earned Rs 15 crore on its opening day in Mainland China. On the second day, it earned $3.55 million and zoomed to Chinese box office top slot.

This film is just one more in the growing list of movies that made headlines in China. Here are a few of them, since China started allowing the release of five Indian films a year there:

Secret Superstar
Believe it or not, but the heart-warming story of a burqa-clad teenager who wants to save her mother from an abusive marriage earned Rs. 7.5 billion in China. Its collection in India was a measly Rs 600 million. Secret Superstar was a low-budget Indian film that beat the Marvel universe space fantasy Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 at the Chinese box office in 2017. Secret Superstar also became one of the few Indian movies to sign a revenue-sharing agreement with Chinese distributors. Prior to that, filmmakers sold rights to domestic distributors for a flat fee.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan
In this dark comedy, a golden-hearted simpleton takes a mute girl back to her home across the border into Pakistan. The Chinese people loved this Salman Khan-starring movie so much that it earned Rs 18 crore on its opening day and minted over Rs 150 crore within the next two weeks. This 2015 film — about a man who makes a perilous journey across the India-Pakistan border in search of the parents of a lost six-year-old girl — which was a big hit in India, too, saw a release in 8,000 cinemas across
China on March 2, 2018.

Hindi Medium
Irrfan Khan’s acclaimed sleeper hit of 2017 opened in mainland China on April 4, 2018, for the five-day Qingming Festival weekend. On opening day, the film grossed Rs 22.25 crore in its China earnings, making it the second biggest ever opening for a Hindi film. In its second weekend, this Saket Chaudhary-directed film stayed at No.2 at the box office haul in the Middle Kingdom. It beat local films such as Wrath Of Silence, Nuts, Cats, Peachtopia and The Snow Queen 3: Fire and Ice and was only behind to Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One.

The Chinese, who remember Aamir Khan from the days of Lagaan, seem to love him. Dangal, a semi-biographical movie about breaking gender stereotypes, earned over Rs 1,000 crore in China to become the highest-grossing Indian movie in the Middle Kingdom. Based on the real-life story of Mahavir Phogat, a father of two daughters (Geeta and Babita), who fights gender stereotypes and corrupt sports officials to pave the way for them to become international wrestling champions, went onto becoming China’s highest-grossing non-Hollywood foreign movie of all time, earning $190 million.

Released in India in 2014, this satirical comedy-drama starring Anushka Sharma and Aamir Khan, emerged as the highest grossing Indian film of all time. This movie, about a human-like alien on a research mission to earth, also happens to be one of the first movies to create history at the Chinese box office. PK became the first movie to cross the Rs 100-crore mark at the Chinese box office and the first Bollywood film to have achieved such a feat in an overseas territory. It had a dubbed Mandarin Chinese version, with popular Chinese actor Wang Baoqiang voicing Khan’s role.