Comedy films can learn from New Delhi

By Wang Xiaonan Source:Global Times Published: 2015-6-1 20:13:01

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Indian science fiction comedy PK has scored 8.3 points on one of China's biggest film reviewing websites Douban since its release in China on May 22. After emerging as the highest-grossing Indian movie ever with a box office of $101 million globally, it is standing high in the favor of the Chinese public.

The film, written and directed by Rajkumar Hirani and starring well-known actor Aamir Khan, renders a new answer to an age-old question. Alien PK, the protagonist of the movie, calls false or artificial gods and religious fanaticism into question, on a journey to seek earthlings' God to get back his pendant that enables him to return to his space. A romantic relationship also runs through the satire, serving as a hint that true belief is no less than pure love.

Brimming with laughter and tears over its long running time, PK has aroused mixed feelings among Chinese audiences as it touches upon religion, one of the most solemn and sensitive issues, not only in India, which has been suffering from long-standing religious strife, but also in many other countries.

Back in 2009, 3 Idiots, which featured the same director and leading actor as in PK, became a massive success across China and caused a stir among Chinese audiences for its ironic look at India's rigid and dreary education system. Now PK has created history by ranking the 70th biggest box office earner in the world last year, apparently taking the shine off the somewhat chaotic comedy market of China.

A Net user claimed that the Chinese film industry could only produce funny movies instead of real comedies. Another said that Chinese films and TV plays were rife with various feuds between a mother and her daughter-in-law.

In actuality, China's movie circles have made relatively popular comedies like A Chinese Odyssey, directed by Jeffrey Lau and starring Stephen Chow two decades ago. Based to some degree on one of the four greatest classical novels in the history of Chinese literature, Journey to the West, the two-part fantasy comedy has impressed a generation of Chinese audiences with its love story.

Nevertheless, since then stillness seems to have reigned over China's comedy industry until early this year when Miss Granny was released.

"This is just the way a film should be!"

"What a surprising comedy!"

"Finally I've seen a relaxing while moving drama in the malodorous film market."

The film received a myriad of positive comments with its enjoyable story which not only warns us to cherish our youth but also prompts us to face up to the increasingly severe social conundrum of aging. It has become one of the few films that have scored above 7 points at Douban.

However, it's a pity that it was a reproduction of an eponymous South Korean drama. A flicker of excitement among Chinese film fans has gradually faded away. It is time that we seriously mull over and reflect why China's filmmakers are unable to produce both interesting and thought-provoking comedies.

There might be only one thing in between amusement and real comedy: the power to think, which has perhaps created the biggest gap between PK and previous Chinese comedies.

Satirizing the social evils of the day with Indians' peculiar humor is Hirani's recipe for success. Without meticulous observation and profound thinking, such inventive details would not have been included in the film. This is just what blundering Chinese films lack.

Quite a few Net users simply attribute an absence of excellent comedies in China's film market to the country's relatively rigorous censorship, which, however, is a lazy and convenient plea. Similar to India, China, amid unprecedented development, has been seeing a wide spectrum of social ills, providing a broad space for filmmakers to fully exert their talent. They should learn from PK about how to tell a bright and thought-provoking comedy in an artistic way without necessarily being too cynical.

The author is a freelance writer based in Beijing.

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