Anticipation high for Indian wrestling film ‘Sultan,’ Salman Khan’s second movie to hit Chinese cinemas this year

By Huang Tingting Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/29 18:48:42

Promotional material for Sultan Photo: IC


Following in the footsteps of Aamir Khan's record-breaking sports film Dangal, another Indian film focusing on Indian wrestlers, Sultan, is set to release in the Chinese mainland on Friday.

Starring Bollywood megastar Salman Khan and directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, the 2016 Indian film about a middle-aged Indian wrestling champion's struggle to juggle career and his family is set to become the star's second movie to grace the silver screen in China this year after Bajrangi Bhaijaan in March.

Bajrangi Bhaijaan raked in a total of 286 million yuan ($42 million) to become the highest-grossing, non-Aamir Khan Indian film in China.

Currently, Sultan's "want-to-see" votes on Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan has reached 32,000, surpassing that of Bajrangi Bhaijaan before it came out. While anticipation is high, the film will face a strong competition from Mission: Impossible - Fallout. Debuting on the same day, the Tom Cruise film has a stunning 210,000 votes.

Moreover, since Sultan focuses on wrestling, it is frequently compared by Chinese moviegoers and critics to Aamir Khan's 2016 hit film Dangal, which is still the highest-grossing Indian film in China with a box-office take of 1.3 billion yuan.

A story about love

"The film should be called 'Birth of a Daughter-in-Law for the Father in Dangal,'" joked Chinese netizen Shuaidao Wangdao on Sina Weibo.

"Also featuring a wrestling story, Sultan focuses more on how an Indian iron man 'bends' before his love, and thereby finds a balance between sports and romance," China Film Directors Center posted on Sina Weibo on Tuesday.

According to the production team, the two films at their core tell different stories.

"Dangal is about a father's passion for his daughters. Sultan is, at heart, a love story. It is also about one man's quest to rise above his failures," Salman Khan, who plays the hero Sultan in the film, who he described as a "large-hearted simple man" similar to the character he played in Bajrangi Bhaijaan, told the Global Times in an email interview.

To better fit the role, the star had to take training classes with professional wrestlers to learn wrestling moves before filming.

"Sultan is a story which was inside me for a really long time," the film's director and screenwriter Ali Abbas Zafar told the Global Times via email, going on to describe the movie as an "underdog story" that conveys "a social message with an emotional touch."

While Indian films have been gaining ground in China over the past two years with the success of films like Dangal and Hindi Medium, Zafar is also positive about Chinese films' prospects in the Indian market, saying his favorite Chinese films are Zhang Yimou's To Live and Chen Kaige's Farewell My Concubine.

"I feel that the Indian and Chinese cultures are alike. We feel for emotions and family for us is very important, somewhere when both the countries think the same their cinema and art is accepted by each other," wrote the director.

Love from fans

Though the director and Salman Khan didn't make it to China this time to promote the film - probably due to the bad press that has surrounded the star since April, when he was convicted by an Indian court of killing endangered antelopes two decades ago - a group of Chinese fans have been working hard to show their support for the film and the star.

"Though we haven't organized any big-scale film-watching events for Sultan, we recommend members living in the same areas team up to watch the movie. We have also made club uniforms and signs for them so they can show off when they go to cinemas," Huo Huo, a manager for the Salman Khan China Fan Club who runs the star's major newsfeed on Sina Weibo and the BBS forum platform in China, told the Global Times on Tuesday.

Though Salman Khan became more well-known in China after the debut of Bajrangi Bhaijaan, his fan base, while growing, is still small compared to many other famous foreign stars.

"We hope that our efforts and the film will help attract more fans," said Huo.

For many of Salman Khan's hardcore Chinese fans, they first fell in love with the star due to his looks, and later became enamored with him after watching his films and learning about his involvement in charities.

"You love him more as you get to know him," Zhe Xiu, a fan member from the club, told the Global Times.

"He is just as kind-hearted and full of a sense of justice as the role he plays in Bajrangi Bhaijaan."

"I saw Chinese reports questioning about Salman Khan's performing skills, I think they should have just shut their mouths after they watched Bajrangi Bhaijaan… but now Sultan is coming, too!" Xia Tian, a Salman Khan fan for eight years, told the Global Times.

"I'll definitely go watch the movie in cinemas several times," she said.


Newspaper headline: Finding a balance


Posted in: FILM,MISCELLANY,CULTURE & LEISURE

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