Filmmakers from China, India seek to strengthen cooperation
Global Times

The curtains came down on the 9th Beijing International Film Festival Saturday night. Indian films were considered one of the biggest highlights of the annual festival. Indian film Fear won the Tiantan Award for Best Cinematography while film Zero was the closing film. 


Chinese director Wen Muye, Indian film star Shahrukh Khan and Indian director Kabir Khan attend the China-India Film Coproduction Dialogue on Thursday in Beijing. Photo: Wang Qi/Global Times

Just two days before the closing ceremony, the China-India Film Coproduction Dialogue was held at the Beijing Hotel. During the dialogue, Indian actor Shahrukh Khan, director Kabir Khan and Chinese director Wen Muye shared their ideas about the state of film cooperation between the two countries. 

One of the seven main forums at this year's festival, the China-India Film Coproduction Dialogue was held during a time when Indian films continue to grow in popularity in China. 

As two major players in the global film industry, China and India have much in common and possess huge potential for cooperation. Seeking further cooperation and a deeper understanding of each other, film industry veterans in both countries are looking to the future. 

Ups and downs 

When talking about the impression Indian films have had on China, one cannot avoid talking about Awaara (1951), known as The Vagabond. The film's theme song"Awaara Hoon" is a tune that many Chinese born in 1960s and 1970s can recognize after just a few notes.

Renowned Chinese director Jia Zhangke was also influenced by Raj Kapoor's Awaara, so much so he used the song in his second film Platform (2000). 

"I was touched by this song ("Awaara Hoon") in the film when I was young, the singing and dancing in Indian films are really helpful in driving the plot," said Zhou Maofei, chairman of the board for Beijing Cultural Investment Development Group, at the forum.

While Indian films were big for a time, screening of the films dropped off for many reasons until 2009, when Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire brought Indian elements back to Chinese mainland cinemas.  

In 2012, young Chinese moviegoers began showing more interest in Indian films due to Chinese director Ang Lee's Oscar-winning film Life of Pi (2012). Telling the magical story of an Indian man trapped on a boat with a tiger, the film holds a 9.0/10 on Chinese media review platform Douban.

The success of Life of Pi in China is in part thanks to the road paved by one man: actor Amir Khan, who has become the representative of Indian films in China. 

Premiering in the Chinese mainland in 2011, Amir Khan's 3 Idiots ranks at No.12 on Douban's list of the top 250 films with an overall score of 9.2/10 from 1 million registered Douban users. 

Dangal, another film from Amir Khan, became a huge phenomenon in China in 2017, beating out Hollywood blockbusters like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 at the mainland box office. Earning 1.3 billion yuan ($216 million), the film ranked at No.7 on the list of highest-earning films in China that year.

Besides Amir Khan films, other Indian flims have received warm welcomes from Chinese audiences. With a score of 8.5/10 on Douban, the film Bajrangi Bhaijaan earned more than 200 million yuan at the mainland box office. 

"I think really touching movies can be successful in any country," said the film's director Kabir Khan at Thursday's forum. 

'Common story' 

"India has the globally renowned Bollywood film industry and China is the world's second-largest film market," Du Feijin, head of the  Beijing Municipal Publicity Department, noted the necessity for China-India film cooperation during the forum.

Wen, director of Chinese hit film Dying to Survive, said good movies have three criteria that must be met - they must be entertaining, socially aware and instructive. Wen noted that most famous Indian films perform really well when it comes to these three criteria. 

However, when talking about coproducing films, Wen noted that for him the premise of a film coproduction must be in line with his own cultural background so that he can understand it. 

"First of all, it must be local and started from my perspective. As a director, I need to tell a story that I am familiar with, instead of disrupting my cultural system," said Wen. 

"Both Chinese and Indian roles can be involved, but one plant cannot have two different roots."

"We have more in common than Hollywood," said director Kabir Khan, tackling the subject from a different angle. 

He noted that he was not trying to stress the importance of the cultural closeness between two countries, instead, Kabir Khan said he believes in the universality of the human experience. 

"A good story and presenting it in the right way are the most important things for a coproduced film," he said. 

All the guests expressed confidence that the flower of cooperation will bloom due to the fertile cultural soil shared by the two countries. 

"The theme of our story is very broad, and we have rich cultural resources," said Zhou.

As a popular film star, Shahrukh Khan noted that they are on the right path now. 

"Once you start telling the story, you can't stop, and we've started this collaborative conversation… as long as we find the common story we want to do, we're actually pretty close."