Salman Khan's 'Sultan' eyeing success in China
A poster of film Sultan [Photo courtesy of 1905.com]
India's leading Bollywood actor Salman Khan's wrestling saga "Sultan" was due for release in Chinese mainland theaters on August 31, a move generating a major buzz in Indian and Chinese social media.
In recent years, China has emerged as an important market for Bollywood movies, headed Aamir Khan's sports biopic "Dangal" that reportedly earned US$196 million there, surpassing the overseas earnings of every other Indian film in history.
From an Indian perspective, it's expected the 2016 production "Sultan" will be a huge hit, delighting Chinese audiences and having some impact in warmer bilateral ties.
"Sultan", already a highly successful and critically-acclaimed movie elsewhere, earning US$92 million worldwide so far to become the fifth-highest-grossing Indian film ever, marks Salman's sophomore swim in the Chinese film market after the Kabir Khan-directed "Bajrangi Bhaijaan" which was released during the Lantern Festival in China under the title "Little Lolita's Monkey God Uncle" on March 2 this year.
It is pertinent to note here that, during President Xi Jinping's visit to India in September 2014, both governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Film Co-Production.
The agreement has helped Bollywood movies to get access to the Chinese market, where very few Indian films had previously been shown due to a stipulation that only 34 foreign production productions were allowed to enter each year. Most of this tight quota was naturally grabbed by Hollywood.
"Sultan" becomes the sixth Indian movie to be released over 11,000 silver screens, targeting around 40,000 shows a day in China. The previous ones were Secret Superstar, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Hindi Medium, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion and Toilet: A Love Story.
Despite the small number involved, all five films won immense praise from all sections of the moviegoing Chinese audience.
These successes over the past two years have generated a genuine groundswell that is reflected in outstanding box office returns. At the same time, their popularity has done much to reduce the luster of Hollywood offerings in China.
More importantly, the recent US-China trade friction also offers the prolific Indian film industry a chance to deal a knockout blow to Hollywood by creating more quality films tailored to Chinese tastes.
However, ahead of the release of "Sultan", Indian film critics and trade analysts had already begun a debate on whether it can surpass the box office record of "Dangal" in view of the fact that both films revolve around wrestling, and, indeed, female wrestlers. This may be somewhat unfair to compare them in this way, as the same general theme does not necessarily produce the same film. Further, these two movies have different story lines.
"Sultan", which also stars Anushka Sharma, is a sports drama with a romantic angle, but is not based on a real-life character. It is about an ageing underdog wrestler Sultan Ali Khan, who gives up the sport following the death of his son.
After a couple of years, he sets out only to regain his lost glory and love of his wife, Aarfa, along with the welcome prize money.
On the other hand, with a powerful tale, "Dangal" is based on the real story of an amateur wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat, who trained his two daughters, Geeta and Babita, to become champions.
However, both films adopt a strong feminist stance that also goes down well with audiences. In "Sultan", Anushka Sharma's role as a female wrestler sends out a strong message on feminism, especially as she sacrifices her career for motherhood.
It's a fact that Aamir Khan, affectionately known as Uncle Aamir in China, is the symbol of Indian films for legions of Chinese fans. However, Salman Khan doesn't have a bad track record in China, either.
He also developed a solid fan base in China with "Bajrangi Bhaijaan", which is the second highest grossing Indian film so far, earning US$45.4 million in China this year.
Furthermore, "Sultan" won the Best Action Film award at the Shanghai International Film Festival last year and was the first Indian film to earn the prestigious Jackie Chan award.
Let's see how China reacts to "Sultan" against Tom Cruise's "Mission: Impossible – Fallout" which will be released on the same day.
In a wider perspective, it can be said that, despite some unpleasantness between the two countries, India and China must look closer at ties through art, culture and music. If Indian people watch more Chinese films and Chinese people watch more Indian films, over two billion people on both sides of the Himalayas can get to know each other better.
Both countries have much to gain by being friends and living in peace and harmony as good neighbors as we have been doing so for the past 2,000 years.
(Source_title：Salman Khan's 'Sultan' eyeing success in China)