Can an actor change two nations?

Aamir Khan in Dangal, 2016 (photo by iMDb)

The box office of movies in China has been always hard to predict due to the weird sense of Chinese viewers. Many controversial Chinese films have billion dollars of box office, but some popular foreign language movies are unexpectedly unpopular with Chinese movie market. Despite its population of 1.3 billion, it’s not that easy to capture the Chinese movie market, and there are few reasons.

First, most of Chinese major producers, theaters and even mass merchandisers all belong to the same enterprise groups, like Alibaba Group, Wanda Group and Tencent Group. The sessions of movies and when they come to theaters are in charge of those enterprises. This mode benefits the local movies that may be sponsored by those groups. Second, most of Chinese views exclude the foreign movies for the language, although many Hollywood movies have Chinese dubbing in China.

However, the Bollywood Indian movies are exceptions to those foreign language movies that have few Chinese fans. On the contrary, the Bollywood movies become a new trend to the movie market in China.

Secret Superstar, 2017 (photo by iMDb)

Secret Superstar, written and directed by Aamir Khan, the renowned Indian actor and producer has been in theaters since mid-January in China. It has attracted millions of audiences to cinemas and its box office of first week was up to 27 million US dollars. Before February, Secret Superstar’s box office in China had accumulated to 6,600 million US dollars, which makes it have chances to become the year’s top selling foreign language film.

In fact, this film’s box office for only 2 days after being released in China surpassed its total box office since it had been released in India throughout the country, receiving 14 million US dollars.

Dagal, 2016 (photo by iMDb)

Another previous film of Aamir Khan “Dangal” made RMB$1.29 billion yuan in China at the box office and became the best-selling foreign language film last year. Aamir Khan is not only the legend of Indian movies and the leader of Bollywood, but also supported by the younger generation in China at the same time. One of the reasons is that the themes of his recent films are all about reforms, promoting the destruction of feudal society, trying to change the traditional Indian value by the story in film.

Secret Superstar, 2017 (photo bu iMDb)

In Secret Superstar, a girl Insia Malik born in a traditional Indian family desires to sing on the stage and to become a famous singer, but obstructed and humiliated by her autocratic father. To chase her dream, Insia Malik anonymously sings and plays the guitar on the video website with mask, until she meets music administrator starred by Aamir Khan. Aamir Khan played quite similar roles in both films Dangal and Secret Superstar, which is also similar to himself, opposing caste system and promoting women to confront patriarchy in the reality.

The two movies aim to attack the very serious gender inequality in Indian society, and they successively have set off social issues since being released. Interestingly, when the movie was broadcast in China, it was not excluded by the audiences and its popularity in China even overtook that in India. The publics in China don’t know the Indian social situation well actually, why have Aamir Khan’s films affected so much in China?

It is possible that all the Chinese are fighting the authoritarianism which is exactly rooted from patriarchy all the time. For Indian feudal society, the films highlight dreams-chasing, independence and empowerment of the disadvantaged which are just the problems that Chinese society has faced for decades. Trying hard to enter the urban from rural areas, those Chinese want to get rid of the family and poor economy of the previous generation, being dedicated to making a name for themselves. This phenomenon can be observed with the variety talent shows which has sprung up in recent years that countless young people are looking forward to the overnight fame which could twist their own life and even their family’s.

Aamir Khan on the cover of Time on September, 2012 (photo by Time)

Bollywood movies have become a new wave of the movie market in China, yet the Aamir Khan’s goal is neither box office nor to dominate movie industry. For over a decade, Aamir Khan has apparently made effort to change the outdated and unequal traditions by his own movies. In 2012, Aamir Khan was shot for the cover photo of Time with a subtitle “Can an actor change a nation?”

In 2018, the answer could be “two nations.” The foreign media quoted Chinese netizens saying that “India and China all face the same social problems. However, there is no such actor as Aamir Khan in China.” Without public voice for the disadvantaged, because of the examination system of film and television, these kinds of film works is a lack of Chinese movie industry which is filled with unrealistic romance and idols. Despite the obstacle to language, Indian movies do play a vital role to represent Chinese audiences’ voice.

Bollywood actor Aamir Khan looks on during the song launch of film ‘Secret Superstar’ in Mumbai, India, Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. The film is scheduled for release for 19 October 2017. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)