is no better word than "unbelievable" to describe Indian sports film
Dangal’s huge box-office achievement in the Chinese mainland. However,
if you take a look at some of the cultural and social similarities
between China and India, the film’s success may not actually seem that
Dangal’s box-office performance in China has gone against all market
norms. While box-office earnings usually tend to decline the longer a
film is screened in theaters, Dangal’s box-office take nearly tripled
during its second weekend, rising from May 5-7 opening weekend earnings
of 86.64 million yuan ($12.6 million) to 235.88 million yuan. During its
third weekend, Dangal remained steady, collecting another 235.30 million
As of Wednesday noon, Dangal has made 830.94 million yuan, making it the
eighth highest-earning 2017 film in the Chinese mainland so far.
What has been the key to Dangal’s success? What do the audience
demographics look like? Do other Indian films have a chance at
replicating this success?
According to the statistics on Maoyan, a Chinese online film database,
58.2 percent of mainland moviegoers nationwide who are interested in
seeing the film are women. This percentage increases to 59.1 percent in
third-tier cities and 60.2 percent in fourth-tier cities.
Looking at age, moviegoers between 20-24 account for the largest group
who want to see the film nationwide at 33.4 percent, followed by 25-29
years old at 29.4 percent.
Recipe for success
While the recipe for a good film has many ingredients, resonating with
the audience is a key factor. It is in this regard that Dangal, a story
about a father training his daughters to become wrestling champions in a
male-dominated society, has reached the heart of Chinese audiences,
especially women, many of whom feel that women are often not treated
equally as men.
Featuring the title "How many life possibilities does a girl from a
small village have?" netizen Shuiwujiao de Maoer posted a long review of
Dangal on Douban.
一位名叫Shuiwujiao de Maoe的网友在豆
In the review, she wrote that she was very impressed when the father,
played by Indian actor Aamir Khan, pointed out that Geeta, the oldest
daughter, was not only fighting for herself, but also for the millions
of girls who are forced into marriages because they are less esteemed
than boys by society.
"This story is very Chinese. I don’t think it will resonate as much in
countries such as the US," Tan Zhen, a research fellow at the China
Federation of Literary and Art Circles and one of the few scholars in
China studying Indian films, told the Global Times.
"There are similarities such as the parent-child relationship, the
pressure one has to bear when growing up, as well as similar family and
Speaking on gender inequality, Tan agreed that the preference for boys
over girls is still deeply rooted among many Chinese, especially in
Dangal’s inspirational story has also led to many teachers and parents
using the film as motivational aids.
According to a report on sports.sohu.com, the Chinese national table
tennis team organized a group viewing for its players.
Yingjunzi, a Chinese film critic and blogger, posted that he thinks the
film’s motivational message is another factor that has helped Dangal
achieve critical and box-office success.
"For many Chinese parents who pay close attention to their child’s
education, the film has become an educational bible for encouraging
their children to study even harder," he wrote.
"Chinese parents are willing to do anything for their children’s
education. When they hear from relatives and friends that there is a
good film that can motivate their children to perform better, they will
definitely rush to the theaters with their kids. It’s become a family
film," Yingjunzi added.