Bollywood's growing success in China has been led by the actor Aamir Khan
China: a rapidly growing market for Indian films
India's Bollywood, among the world's biggest film industries, is rapidly gaining a new, fast-growing audience in China.
Bajrangi Bhaijaan, a comedy drama starring mega star Salman Khan, is the latest film to take the Chinese box office by storm following its release there last month. It is the fourth Indian movie to gross more than 1 billion rupees in China.
“Overseas theatricals have emerged as an important avenue for producers, giving them an additional safety net,” according to a report by EY.
“More focus is placed on the Chinese market. Until recently, China wasn't considered part of the traditional foreign market or Indian films, which includes regions such as the US, the UK, and the UAE, all of which are home to a significant Indian diaspora.”
Bollywood's growing success in China has been led by the actor Aamir Khan.
He spotted the opportunity in the market and part of the actor's appeal is that the Chinese audience identify with the social themes his films explore, such as gender equality and domestic violence in Secret Superstar, released in China this year. That movie only collected 600 million rupees in India, but generated 7.5bn rupees in China.
Dangal, which stars Aamir Khan, a film based on a true story about an amateur wrestler who trains his two daughters to compete at the Commonwealth Games, is the biggest hit in China to date, collecting double the revenues it took in India.
“The way things are looking China definitely has become a very big market for Bollywood films,” says Nitesh Tiwari, the film's director. He says he was astounded by the success of Dangal in China, which earned some $170 million in the country.
“We were blown away and were humbled by the kind of response it got in China,” he says. “The market is opening up for sure.”
With 40,000 cinema screens, China has more than four times the number of screens to be found in India, making it a hugely attractive market for Bollywood, according to EY.
But there are also challenges in China for Bollywood, including restrictions on the number of films that can be released there, censorship and other regulatory processes which mean that it takes a significant amount of time to release movies in the country.