Art & Culture

How Secret Superstar proves China is in love with Aamir Khan

Poulomi Ghosh
Poulomi GhoshJan 28, 2018 | 20:48

How Secret Superstar proves China is in love with Aamir Khan

China’s growing interest in Bollywood actually hinges on Aamir Khan.

On the threshold of earning Rs 400 crore only from China, Aamir Khan Production's (AKP) Secret Superstar is the newest entry to the club of Bollywood movies, which made a mark in the Hollywood-dominated entertainment industry of China.

The club comprising 3 Idiots (2011, release year in India), Dhoom 3 (2014), PK (2015), Dangal (2016) and Secret Superstar (2017), is obviously helmed by Aamir Khan as he has either acted in the movies, or is the producer. The club also proves the fact that China's growing interest in Bollywood actually hinges on Aamir Khan.


Secret Superstar, which was released in India in October 2017, was released in China on January 19, this year and within a week, it smashed the first-week records of all Bollywood movies released in China. According to one report, Secret Superstar is the first Indian film to get a lucrative revenue-sharing slot, which is generally offered to Hollywood movies in China. The producers, in this case Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao, will receive 25 per cent of the gross box office revenue the film earns. This can be treated as a great achievement for Bollywood as China allows only four Indian films to be released in China against 38 from Hollywood every year.

Secret Superstar, the small budget (Rs 15 crore) movie tells us the story of Insia, essayed by Zaria Wasim, who wants to be a singer but there are various societal challenges, including the ones posed by her father. The three-month gap between the India release and the China release was initially speculated to have had affected its collection. On the contrary, the movie has started making ripples after its China release. And here are the reasons why China is in love with Aamir Khan.


He is their Amier Han, Nan Shen, Uncle Aamir

Every time the Bollywood actor visits the country for the promotion of his films, he receives great adulation from his fans. And that admiration is not only for “Rancho” (3 Idiots) or “Mahavir Singh Phogat” (Dangal), but also for the off-screen person, who is referred to as Amier Han, Nan Shen (male god) and Uncle Aamir, in a more casual way.

This fan base goes back to the time of 3 Idiots. According to Douban, China’s parallel to IMDB, 3 Idiots became China’s 12th favourite movie of all times, behind a Chinese movie Farewell My Concubine. Douban has given 8 out of 10 to Secret Superstar, just one point less than Dangal, which was rated 9.2.

According to a report, 3 idiots earned over Rs 16 crore, Dhoom 3 figures crossed Rs 24 crore, while PK for the first time upped the game to Rs 123 crore and Dangal took it to 387 crore.


Interestingly, Aamir Khan was not a familiar face in China till some time back, though his film Lagaan (2001) also released in China. Back then the market was teeming with piracy and Nan Shen was yet to be discovered.


Chinese media praises Aamir

Chinese media has been magnanimous in praising Aamir Khan movies. The online version of People’s Daily described Secret Superstar as “touching the soul”. The Global Times described the movie as living up to  expectations. The report also said how this has opened up a discourse among Chinese netizens and as Dangal was translated as Shuaijiao ba! Baba (Let’s Wrestle! Dad), Secret Superstar has been called as Lihun ba! Mama (Get Divorced! Mum). A South China Morning Post article says that the actor has been “described by some as India’s greatest cultural export to China since Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel laureate whose stories held the Middle Kingdom so spellbound in the early 20th century that he was credited with ushering in a new ‘Tagorean’ phase of Sino-Indian relations.”


Remarkable presence on Weibo, Toutiao

In April 2017, Aamir Khan created his account on Weibo, China’s social media platform, as part of the promotion of Dangal. Soon, he overtook Prime Minister Narendra Modi in popularity on Weibo. As part of his Secret Superstar promotion, he has opened an account on Toutiao, a Chinese news platform, and also undertook a week-long tour of various places in the country.



Is he also considered a reformer?

According to many, his popularity in China has a lot to do with his non-fiction television series Satyamev Jayate, which addressed a number of issues including female feticide, domestic violence, sexual exploitation among others. Chinese media started referring him as the “conscience of India” and in 2014, the programme got the licence to be aired on Chinese television.

Issues that China can identify with

According to experts, Chinese audience is overfed with mythological movies, which explains why movies like Baahubali 2, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, which otherwise hit the jackpot on the box office in India, didn’t do well in China. Realistic movies have found takers in China and Aamir Khan's movies have been on that track so far. While 3 idiots raised the issue troubling the education system, Dangal talked about women empowerment. PK, on the other hand, was a satire on religion.


Last updated: January 29, 2018 | 18:56
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