- 20 May 2021
The humongous profit and emerging KWAN connection with China forces to raise questions on the inflow of Chinese yuan in Bollywood. For the last few years, Bollywood has found a new friend in China even beating Hollywood in grossing profits. However, now that the two Asian giants are surfacing an ignominious border conflict, authorities are skeptical if this fascination would still remain an honest source of amusement.
The rapturous attention that Bollywood has lately received from their neighbouring country, dates back to the pre-Cultural Revolution Era. It was then that Raj Kapoor's classic Awaara was released in the middle Kingdom, thereby illuminating China's interest in Indian cinema.
Some 10 years ago, Three Idiots, a satire on India’s structured education system, made its way into China through the pirated DVD route. Within weeks, it became the talk of the town and was widely discussed among people in the greater China region (which includes Taiwan and Hong Kong), enough to make its producers sit up and take note. The movie was released in Taiwan in December 2010, in Hong Kong in September 2011, and in mainland China in December 2011.
Image Credits: Pinterest
Although Happy New Year and Dhoom 3 did manage to get to the screens of the Shanghai town, they unfortunately became box-office bombs. Then in 2015, Khan made a maiden promotional trip to China for PK, the first film to gross ₹100 crore at the Chinese box office. It was then that China’s legendary adulation for ‘Mishu’, as Aamir is fondly known here. A confidential secretary or jiyao mishu (机要秘书) in Chinese politics is a personal secretary often trusted with secret, private information of the Chinese Communist Party. Amir Khan being called ‘Mishu’ is a secret in itself.
“PK was a fun movie, and yet came packed with a message we found interesting,” says Wancheng Gu, Shanghai-based partner at Peacock Mountain Productions, and an expert on the China film market. “The Chinese audience knew Aamir Khan from his Three Idiot days. Wang Baoqiang (a famous movie star) dubbed for Aamir, and that was a big draw for the audience too.”
Srk amidst fans in China; Image Credit: Deccan Chronicle
This was not the end. Dangal, (Shuai Jiao Ba! Baba or Let’s Wrestle, Dad) was released in China in May 2017 and it worked magic again. “We all knew that Dangal was a great film, and that Aamir was popular in China; but nothing prepared us for the extent of its success,” says Beijing-based Prasad Shetty, a producer of Secret Superstar and partner in NPRG Partners, a company that represents the interests of various Indian film studios in China.
Far and beyond Mishu:
Mishu's exemplary status has remained untainted amongst the people of China. Nevertheless, non Aamir Khan movies have also fared well in Chinese box office. Bajrangi Bhaijaan was a reasonable success (earning the highest revenue for a non-Aamir Khan movie in the region) with audiences attracted to the endearing story of the little girl and her cross-border journey. Baahubali 2, Hindi Medium, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Sultan, and Hichki followed in quick succession. Bollywood slowly has acquired the cynosure of all eyes in China.
Image file : Jackie Chan and Sonu Sood
Questionable Chinese money flow, Four times profit to Bollywood
Image File : Hrithik Raushan with a Chinese Fan
According to a report in South China morning post, while Chinese market has increased from US$455 million to US$8.6 billion, the Hollywood share of revenue ironically has declined by over 50 per cent. Since 2015, only three Hollywood blockbusters have made it to the top 10 most-watched films list in China. Entire share is now going to the Bollywood. Hollywood’s loss is the Bollywood’s gain.
Data Source : Global Times
Dangal grossed a whopping $193 million at the Chinese box office and Secret Superstar, which released here in January 2018, came close with an impressive $118 million. The average price of the lowest ticket for Bollywood movies in China is $12 to $15 almost 10 times larger than India. The film makers however make an argument that they receive only 15 percent profits of the movies as the rest goes to local distributors. However, until an audit is done on the Chinese inflow of money, such claims hold no water. The article further explores this ambiguity of profit inflow.
Controversial KWAN connections with China
It is such a mere co incidence that the infamous talent agency KWAN was the first Indian talent agency to enter the Chinese markets. KWAN, in a tie-up with EStars, headed by CEO Allen Liu, has had a massive expansion in the neighbouring markets lately. The tie-up between KWAN and EStars has always been being viewed as the fulcrum of the entertainment collaboration between China and India. Allen Liu began his career in the with China's Ministry of Commerce close to CCP for 14 years and brought significant foreign investment into the Country.
This may also be purely coincidental that it was E Stars, which was widely credited with pioneering the Chinese film market for big-budget Indian cinema. The same company was responsible for distribution of Aamir Khan’s Dangal and his musical comedy Secret Superstar, truly a ‘Mishu’ like thing. Thugs of Hindostan which made 15 million dollars worth profit in China, a movie which flopped in India was also distributed by Estars films. Another major profit grosser, Bajrangi Bhaijaan was also released in China through E stars Films. So, is it that money of Estar films comes out as an investment in KWAN? Is it that the rest of the 85 percent of Chinese profits may be coming back to India through KWAN?
Now it is another coincidence, that Allen Liu also headed Pacifiers Alliance Group (PAG), for which the present Indian Chief Nikhil Srivastava, is the former senior Co executive of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), an IPL team whose major stakes are with Shahrukh Khan. It is also imperative that Salman Khan holds indirect ownership of KWAN through his company UBT having a major stake in Big Bang Media Ventures, a company that is owner of KWAN. Even Sanjay Dutt owns a team in Master’s Champions League UAE, managed by Indranil Das Blah, who is a managing partner at talent management company KWAN. The biggies of Bollywood seem to connected by one name KWAN.
Bollywood’s brief romance with Chinese audiences seems to have hit a rough patch with nationalistic sentiments on both sides on the rise after violent border clashes left Indian soldiers dead. More so questions are now being raised on Bollywood’s sudden inroads in China.
The perilous situation has demanded officials to give a second thought on all sorts of exchange happening between the two countries, including the cultural exchange. Bollywood, behind the screens, holds a lot of information about the plight and position of a country. Wary Indian producers therefore, already hit by the coronavirus pandemic, are planning to pause releasing films in China for now. This leaves us with the larger question, "Why there has been no audit on Funds inflow inside the Bollywood till date"?