Bollywood star Aamir Khan is certainly making waves in China.
Khan has overtaken Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to become the most followed Indian national on Chinese social media.
The reason for his success? His new movie, Dangal.
Smashing box office records
The movie, which is known as “Let’s wrestle, Dad” in Mandarin, is based on a true story of two female wrestlers — and has gone on to become the highest-grossing Indian film ever in China.
It tells the story of Indian wrestler and coach Mahavir Phogat — played by Khan — who defied social norms and trained his daughters to become wrestlers.
One of his daughters, Geeta Phogat, became the first Indian female wrestler to qualify for the Olympics, and went on to win the country’s first ever gold medal in the Commonwealth Games.
The film has already made $100 million at the Chinese box office — and Chinese internet users have nothing but praise for the film — and for Khan.
The hashtag #LetsWrestleDad started trending on Weibo, and was mentioned 25.8 million times on the site.
“I cried when I watched this film. Amir Khan is such a good actor, I’m a new fan,” said one user on Weibo.
“In order to play the character at age 19, 29 and 55 years old, Amir Khan had to go from 140 pounds to 194 pounds and back to 144. He is so dedicated. A true actor uses his life to show his art,” another user added.
“I really look forward to the day when China will have such a feminist movie,” one commented.
“The whole theatre applauded when this film ended,” said another.
Why the film has struck such a huge chord in China?
Many of the movie’s main themes — such as bias towards women, and the importance of filial piety — are important themes in Indian and Chinese culture.
China has typically not been part of the “traditional” foreign market for Indian films, which usually target regions with large Indian populations such as the US, UK and UAE.
Perhaps Khan’s success marks the beginning of more Bollywood hits in China.