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The rise of Bollywood in China | Cinema | Showcase

Hollywood has been courting the Chinese
moviegoing public for the last few years to become the main player in the market. A series of blockbuster world premieres held in
Beijing were seen as a sure way to realize this goal. But it was the Indian production ‘Dangal’
that won Asian viewers’ hearts. In a country where the female audience is the biggest, it was no surprise that actor Aamir Khan’s tale of female empowerment brought in the big box-office receipts. Another release that helped cement Bollywood’s position in China was ‘Secret Superstar’. This social drama about a 14-year-old Muslim
Indian girl aspiring to become a singer, shockingly beat the mega budget Star Wars
installation; The Last Jedi at the box office. Critics say another reason for the smash Indian
success is the nostalgia felt by the older generation. The people who grew up on the first wave
of cinematic imports from the subcontinent use these films to reminisce about their
first contact with foreign cultures. But what really closed the deal is that now Bollywood companies are beginning to sign ‘revenue sharing’ agreements with Chinese distributors. And with 41,000 cinemas spread across the country, this pact creates a win-win situation
for all parties involved. Joining me now from New Delhi
is film critic Joginder Tuteja. He rates and writes reviews about Bollywood films
on In China, Secret Superstar beat
Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the box office. What was it about that film that earned it so much attention? The best thing about that film is
the emotional connection it managed across the entire Asian audience. In India too, it did reasonably well. The kind of promotional connect which the film has, especially because of the child protagonist, like China, there is a huge thing around family values and people going against all odds and
making things happen for themselves. That’s the exact thing that connected so well to the Chinese audience that we have a huge blockbuster. Women make up the majority of China’s moviegoers. Do you think Bollywood female centered
movies are a reason for that? I won’t call that the primary reason because there are many women-centric
films that are made in Bollywood but they don’t necessarily revolve
around a child protagonist. There are certain action films,
dramas and thrillers that are made but when there’s a child element involved,
that’s something that truly works. It’s not just with Secret Superstar. If you look at other films that
have recently done well in China whether it’s Dangal or Bajrangi Bhaijaan, each of these films has a child
as the central protagonist. So if it is a. A child and b. The child is a female protagonist, those factors work very well. What has Bollywood done to court the Chinese market? I believe one man who has made
it possible is Aamir Khan. In China we have made Indian films
before with children as the protagonist with a strong women-centric theme, but Aamir Khan is one superstar from India who has taken the pain to go there and spend weeks and months
studying the Chinese market, doing the right research,
meet the right contacts, build the right relationship and then ensure that the film was pitched well amongst the audience. That requires a lot of effort, time and intelligence and that is something made possible by Aamir Khan,
so we have to give credit to him. How big is the market in terms of people? The Chinese audience? Yes. So far we are reaching about
50-60 million people in China, it’s a huge country with a population more than 1 billion, so even 50-60 million crores is a very small number. But at least that audience is a start and
it is the only way to get bigger with time. I’m sure that Bollywood wants to keep
a stronghold on the Chinese market. What do you think is the next
step they should take to do so? The next step is not to restrict it only to those
films with a female child protagonist because then people will just be exploring 3 or 4 films that are made out of 250+ films made in India we have to now look at genres that go beyond that. One thing that definitely needs to
be there is the emotional connection. You can’t just make action films in the
hopes of reaching the Chinese audience because there are a lot [of action films] made in China and there are many that come from Hollywood. You can’t only make films centered around
Indian culture because you may be restricting appeal. So yes, there needs to be a much wider appeal They also need a Superstar’s support as well because you can’t have an extra make a film and then promote it, market it and release it. You need an Aamir Khan, Salman Khan
or Shah Rukh Khan. The big ones like Akshay Kumar who are
making an effort to do that. There needs to be an emotional connection and it need to be the kind of subject
that has a Pan-Asian appeal. These three films that we just
spoke about also worked in China because they had a pan-Asian appeal. China has a strong support for music, and for sports so that’s something that worked well. You can’t make an average thriller
and expect China to embrace it. That won’t happen. Thank you so much for giving us that great insight. It was a pleasure having you on our show today.


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