When will Bollywood films return to China?

By Ai Pang Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/22 13:59:13

Promotional material for Drishyam Photo: Courtesy of Maoyan

A remake of 2015 Indian thriller Drishyam is leading the box office in China, as the world's second-largest film market struggles to recover from being hit hard by the COVID-19 epidemic. The Chinese remake Sheep Without a Shepherd has earned more than 3 million yuan ($430,095) since Chinese mainland theaters reopened on Monday, despite competition from Hollywood hits such as Coco and China's Wolf Warrior 2. 

This makes me wonder when Bollywood films will return to the Chinese mainland market and what the first film will be. According to a previous report in April from Indian media, Hrithik Roshan's Super 30 is likely to "be the first Bollywood film to release in China after the coronavirus pandemic." 

However, this will most likely not take place before September, not because of the political tensions caused by the recent border clash in the Galwan Valley between China and India, but due to the need to slowly reopen in phases.

 Sources close to Chinese movie chains have revealed that due to strict safety protocols such as health checks, a ban on food or drink and limiting films to no more than two hours, cinemas are only screening older films such as 2017's Wolf Warrior 2 during the initial phase, and then will move on to new domestic films that were originally scheduled to release in the first half of 2020. After a few months, when things are running smoothly once again, new releases like Super 30 will finally hit big screens.

Some of my Indian friends told me that they were kind of worried that Bollywood films were going to be boycotted in China due to the border clash in Galwan Valley. However, looking at China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo and other major media outlets, this worry seems to be an overreaction as there are no such voices on Sina Weibo calling for a Bollywood boycott. 

China and Chinese people have long been open to cultural exchanges with India in the form of things like Bollywood movies and music. Both countries face similar social issues such as education equality and the gap between the rich and poor - issues that have been well portrayed in Bollywood films. This is why Chinese people love to watch Indian movies and are open to accepting the ideas behind them and adapting them into our own films just like Sheep Without a Shepherd

Yet things are quite different in the eyes of some extreme Indian nationalists and media, who have launched a social media campaign aimed at Bollywood stars like Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan, who are well-received and welcomed in China. It is making things even worse by following the bad example of the Indian government's ban on China's video app TikTok, a move that has encouraged hateful comments and behavior toward China. 

For centuries, China and India have been friends and normal communications and dialogue are often welcomed by the peoples of the two neighbors. 

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