Mumbai (AFP, Reuters) – Bollywood star Aamir Khan’s wrestling hit “Dangal” has become the first Indian film to gross 20 billion rupees or ($428 million), analysts said on Wednesday, as it arrives in China’s cinemas.
The Hindi film’s record box-office takings have set a new and unthinkable benchmark for Bollywood films overseas and also highlighted the value of Chinese audiences for Indian filmmakers.
“Dangal has crossed the 2,000 crore mark” – 20 billion – “which has never been done before,” said Indian film industry analyst Ramesh Bala, noting that Bollywood’s highest-grossing film to date, PK, has grossed only $120 million (165 million euros) worldwide.
“Even Rs 1,000 crore was a distant dream a few months ago. Now the bar is very high.”
Dangal, directed by Nitesh Tiwari, is based on the true story of wrestling coach Mahavir Singh Phogat, who defies all odds to raise his daughters Geeta and Babita to become wrestling champions. Geeta won a gold medal for India at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, as did her sister in 2014.
The film moves away from the syrupy romances and action films with colorful song and dance sequences that Bollywood is famous for.
Instead, it highlights the reality of the struggle for gender equality in India, which like China has a preference for sons and where women are pressured to marry young.
In China, the country with the world’s greatest gender imbalance, it has become an unlikely hit.
Dangal is the highest-grossing foreign non-Hollywood film released in China, which alone contributed about $190 million to Dangal’s box office, the analyst said.
The film’s inspired “ideas to break down gender roles and reform education have struck a chord with many Chinese parents,” according to the official Xinhua news agency.
For every 100 girls, about 118 boys are born in China.
Chinese authorities in 2015 called the gender imbalance among newborns “the worst and longest” in the world, a direct result of the country’s strict one-child policy.
The measure, introduced in 1979 to limit population growth, has led families to abort female fetuses and abandon baby girls, practices that are also common in India.
Dangal was released in India on Dec. 23 last year and quickly became the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time, surpassing the 2014 sci-fi film PK, also starring Khan. It also sparked a conversation about gender bias in the country, which has a ratio of 933 women to 1,000 men.