India and China can be natural cultural allies for several reasons, and such a partnership would certainly help Bollywood catapult itself into a significant position in the world market.
There was a report last week of Abhay Deol and Amitabh Bachchan being in talks for an Indo-Chinese co-production titled Gold Struck. Jackie Chan is also said to have been approached for the project. This is a rather significant news, because this would certainly be a first of its kind partnership in Bollywood. In the past too, there have been a few successful forays into China — 3 Idiots and Chandni Chowk to China— suggesting that the commonality of our shared history makes such offers the possibility of being natural allies, at least on the cultural and cinematic front.
Widely recognised and followed around the world, Hindi films have had a connect with China in the past too. Raj Kapoor, known to be a favourite with Russians, had quite a following in China, although it was Awara that was more popular with the Chinese than Mera Naam Joker. Incidentally, Hindi films have been screened in China since the ’70s, but the strict censorship norms are more accepting of escapist fare, comedies and the song-and-dance light-heartedness, that makes Hindi cinema just the perfect fit for China.
As per the rules, around 22 foreign films are allowed to release within China every year and most of them happen to be from Hollywood. However, the recent success of 3 Idiots has turned things around for Hindi films in a big way. Reportedly, the film despite having been on the home viewing circuit, managed to pull in an impressive audience.
Asia in general and China, Hong Kong, are a huge market for Hollywood films what with a whole lot of tentpole projects like Transformers, from major studios, a few of them made in collaboration with China. This works well for all parties concerned—Hollywood, in addition to the co-operation of authorities for film shoots etc, gets to release the film in a major market like China and for the latter, such collaborations help with increasing cultural clout.
Why, just recently, Transformers had a premiere in Hong Kong, China. The country, is significant because it is the second largest movie consuming market in the world.
India is not too far behind, and given our common cultural moorings, co-productions could be the perfect way to crack the market. Saif Ali Khan in a conversation had pointed out that Hindi movies, with some minor nips and tucks could become major contenders in the world market if they smartly leveraged the connect within Asia. Hollywood has done rather well in creating a cinematic synergy with both Europe and Asia, and it works like a charm. If Gold Struck turns out to be a major hit as 3 Idiots was, it would certainly be a giant leap forward in accomplishing Bollywood’s dreams of showcasing its movies to the world.