Suhasini Haidar

Bollywood dreams in Beijing

Hello and greetings from China!

It’s the last place I expected to be at on my first day in Beijing, but here I am at a film screening for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, eating samosas and gulab jamuns too! It’s an initiative by the Indian embassy to take 10 bollywood films to 5 Chinese cities over the next 6 months, and if the response in Beijing is anything to go by, there are many takers- a packed hall for Farhan Akhtar as Milkha. In his speech at the beginning, Indian Ambassador Ashok Kanth says, it is time to update the Chinese idea of Indian films from the Awaara days to now. Also on offer at the festival, Queen, Jodha Akbar, Gangaajal, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobaara and OMG, Dil Chahta Hai, Lagaan, and Taare Zameen Par. The last 3 obviously, because Aamir Khan is a major hit in China, especially after ‘3 idiots’ that had 9 prints released in Mandarin in China, raking in more than 10 crore rupees in the first two weeks alone.

Awaara to 3 idiots

I do get the bit bout the need to update Chinese viewers. In 2007, I took the wondrous Beijing-Lhasa train along with a group of Indian women journalists, and we were amused to find all the Chinese on the train wanted us to sing “Awaara Hoon” and even “Mera Joota hai Japani”, but knew nothing about any movies or songs since then. Except now, when Aamir Khan’s movies have made a mark, and after 3 idiots, Dhoom 3 raked in crowds too. Indian journalists based here remark how PM Nehru would send Raj Kapoor as a ‘cultural diplomat’ to Russia and South East Asia, and wonder why the Indian government don’t do the same with Mr. Khan?

Sino-Indian films: sign-o’the times

Meanwhile the Ganga is flowing in reverse too, as they would say in Bollywood, and more and more Chinese directors are taking an interest in making films in India. Famous director Zhang Jian Ya, who is a brand ambassador for the Indian film festival is about to release his film that was shot in Kishangarh, () this year called “My amazing Trip to India”, a romance about a Chinese traveller who falls in love with an Indian girl (played by actress Riddhima). Mr. Zhang tells The Hindu many other directors and producers want to try out India next, and praises the production crew for their professional expertise. Another director Lixin Fan tells me he plans a film there, because when he was a child, his father, who was the projection room operator at a Beijing theatre, had shown him the 1971 Asha Parekh and Helen-starrer “Caravan” (Of the Piya tu ab toh aaja fame!), and he has never been able to forget it!

When Chinese President Xi Jinping comes to Delhi next month, one of the agreements expected to be signed is on films co-production, discloses Nirupama Kotru, the Director(Films) at the I&B ministry. The real problem Indian films have had breaking into China is that by law only 35 foreign films can screen in the country. The co-production agreement may be one way around that, says Ms. Kotru. Chinese films would do well in India too. On the flight out of Beijing to Lhasa, I watched “The Truth about Beauty”, an absolutely brilliant film on the nip-tuck business, with very dark humour.

More from Tibet soon! Do write in on twitter >@suhasinih

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 3:52:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/blogs/blog-suhasini-haidar/article6342764.ece

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