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Despite Testy Ties, Bollywood Movie ‘Dangal’ that addresses Social Themes and Stars Actor Aamir Khan captivates Audiences in China

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In this Monday, May 22, 2017 photo, a group of Chinese women take a selfie with a poster of Indian Bollywood blockbuster film “Dangal” on display at a cinema in Beijing. The Aamir Khan film “Dangal” about an Indian man training his daughters to become wrestlers has become China’s biggest grossing non-Hollywood foreign movie. The Indian film was released in China on May 5. By Tuesday, the Indian film had pulled in 806 million yuan ($117 million) in mainland China, according to data from EntGroup, a leading entertainment consultant. (AP Photo/Andy Wong). VOA
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An Indian film that addresses social themes and stars actor Aamir Khan has captivated audiences in China. The film is thriving, despite the fact that India was the only major country to boycott Beijing’s Belt and Road Forum earlier this month.

But the irony and sharp contrast of those two developments was largely lost on the millions of Chinese viewers who have helped keep the Hindi language film land in the top slot, despite the fact that it has subtitles and no voice-over dubbing.

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Analysts, film critics, and social media pundits are still debating what drove hordes of Chinese viewers to this movie, which is not your standard Bollywood mix of songs, dance and bloodletting violence.

Breaking new ground

According to industry sources, this is the first time a movie that was not made in Chinese or English has emerged as the top seller in the world’s second-largest movie market. China imports very few foreign films a year, and non-Hollywood movies make up an even smaller portion of that share.

A wide range of reasons are being forwarded as explanations for the success of Dangal, which has grossed $124 million since its May 5 release in 9,000 theaters across China. On Friday, three weeks after its release, the movie finally slipped from the first to the second highest selling slot. The runner-up, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy 2, has brought in $98 million in China over the same period.

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Perhaps an important reason for Dangal’s success is the celebrity status that Aamir Khan, the star and driving force behind the movie, has enjoyed in China for several years with his previous movies, PK and 3 Idiots, which did very well with Chinese movie-goers. Even before Dangal arrived on the Chinese scene, Amir had a bigger following on his Sina Weibo social media account than Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His following now stands at 600,000 fans compared to Modi’s 165,000.

FILE - Bollywood actor Aamir Khan speaks to the media during the poster launch of his film Dangal in Mumbai, India.
FILE – Bollywood actor Aamir Khan speaks to the media during the poster launch of his film Dangal in Mumbai, India. VOA

Deft marketing including personal canvassing by Khan, who spent a week traveling across Chinese cities, also played a part.

But critics and social media pundits in China see an altogether different reason. Thousands of reviews, articles and social media posts have focused on the peculiar connection between patriarchal society in China and India.

Patriarchy vs feminism

The film revolves around a wrestler father who forces his reluctant daughters to take up the sport.

His authoritarian and strict parenting style is something audiences in China can easily relate to, said Edward Chan, a sociology professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

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“I think the father role portrayed by the movie in India is quite similar to the culture, especially the traditional culture in China,” Chan said.

Tansen Sen, professor of history and Asian studies at the City University of New York said, “It has a story that resonates with the Chinese, both with regard to parent-child relationship as well as the fascination with sports.”

And while some feminists see the father’s behavior as problematic, they also see much to applaud in the story. For those that do, the movie is seen as empowering women.

Two feminist groups, Jianjiao Buluo (Screaming Pepper Tribe) and Cheng Yusan (Orange Umbrella) treated a group of 120 people to a free screening of the film in Guangzhou.

Lu, a 20-something entertainment industry employee, says the movie piqued her curiosity towards India, a country with a population as large as China. Lu says that many young Chinese like her want to follow their own dreams and have the support of their parents.

“I feel the father’s support for his children was especially moving and that parent’s strictness toward their children is for their own good,” Lu says.

An elderly man walks past a poster of Bollywood movie Dangal, a 2016 Bollywood biopic on an Indian wrestling coach and his two professional wrestler daughters, outside a theater in New Delhi, India.
An elderly man walks past a poster of Bollywood movie Dangal, a 2016 Bollywood biopic on an Indian wrestling coach and his two professional wrestler daughters, outside a theater in New Delhi, India. VOA

The party-backed tabloid, the Global Times, slammed the movie for celebrating the values of a domineering father, who pushes his two reluctant daughters into wresting as a career choice. The paper said the film has sparked off a major controversy over different aspects of feminism in China, and whether modern day girls should completely reject the values of patriarchal society.

But the paper also quoted viewers who had a different viewpoint. “It made me think of my father,” the Times quoted one person as saying. “His reticent love for us. I wanted to call him, say nothing, just cry, and cry like a river to release myself from my deep regrets.”

Cao, a fan who says he has been watching Aamir Khan’s movies for years said there are not enough films like Dangal in the Chinese market. He said he admires Khan for his dedication to his profession (how he lost and gained weight) and the effort he put into addressing a social cause through the film.

“Just like people are saying online, he is influencing all of India as a country and all of its people,” Cao says “And I think that’s really great!”

FILE - Zhu Zhu attends the season premiere of the new Netflix series "Marco Polo" at AMC Lincoln Square in New York.
FILE – Zhu Zhu attends the season premiere of the new Netflix series “Marco Polo” at AMC Lincoln Square in New York. VOA

Next Bollywood blockbuster?

Another Hindi movie, Tubelight, is waiting to access the Chinese market. It features Chinese actress and singer Zhu Zhu, and the story revolves around the 1962 India-China war. Analysts are asking if Beijing will allow its entry given its reluctance to discuss this war publicly.

“The two governments should just let the people know each other through free-flowing exchanges and interactions. Sometimes this will result in negative perceptions and misunderstandings, but it will eventually lead to a more nuanced and balanced views of each other,” Sen added. (VOA)

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China And Russia Accused of Manipulating Their Currencies By Trump

Donald Trump to accuse China and Russia as their currency manipulators

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Donald Trump is the President of U.S.
FILE IMAGE- Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday it is unacceptable that Russia and China are devaluating their currencies, days after the Treasury Department declined to label these countries as currency manipulators in its latest report.

Amid a possible new round of sanctions against Russia and a simmering trade war with China, Trump tweeted Monday morning, “Russia and China are playing the Currency Devaluation game as the U.S. keeps raising interest rates. Not acceptable!

In general, when a country artificially devaluates its currency, its exports become cheaper and more competitive in the global marketplace.

The currencies of U.S, China and Russia.
FILE – The U.S. dollar, Indonesian rupiah and Chinese renminbi currencies are displayed in the poster of a money exchange shop in Jakarta, June 12, 2013. VOA

During his presidential campaign, Trump has repeatedly accused China of lowering the value of its currency and vowed to formally label China as a currency manipulator, but so far has failed to do so.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders says the administration is closely watching China’s currency practices. “That’s something that the Treasury Department is watching very closely and we’re continuing to monitor it,” she said Monday.

In a semiannual report titled “Macroeconomic and Foreign Exchange Policies of Major Trading Partners of the United States” released last Friday, the Treasury Department did not designate China as a currency manipulator, but put it as one of the six countries on a monitoring list. The other five countries on the list are Japan, Korea, India, Germany, and Switzerland. Russia is not on the monitoring list. The Chinese currency, the renminbi, has appreciated over 3 percent against the dollar since the beginning of this year, after strengthening by over 6 percent in 2017.

Also Read: Trump: US ‘Being Stolen’ by Illegal Migrants

Brad Setser,a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Treasury Department official said in an interview with VOA he does not think it is an accurate complaint that Russia and China are playing the currency game.

“The Russian ruble was actually quite stable before the sanctions on Russia were intensified. It’s quite clear the volatility in the ruble is a function of the intensification of U.S. sanctions, a sign that the sanctions are biting,” he explained.

Setser said over the past several months, the Chinese yuan has actually appreciated, and China has not been intervening heavily.

“There are plenty of things to criticize China for on trade, but right now, there’s no real basis for criticizing China on currency,” he noted.

Russia's Central Bank Chief.
Russia’s Central bank chief Elvira Nabiullina presents the new 2,000 and 200 ruble banknotes in Moscow on Oct. 12, 2017. VOA

In the past three years, the Federal Reserve raised interest rate six times to a range between 1.5 percent and 1.75 percent, and said they expect to raise the rate two or three more times this year.

Usually, when a country raises its interest rates, the value of its currency rises, making its exports more expensive and less competitive. However, higher U.S. interest rates have not raised the value of the dollar.

“The interesting puzzle that the market has been pondering for the past several months is that the dollar has actually weakened even as the U.S. has raised rates, and even as U.S. passed legislation to expand the fiscal deficit,” Setser said.

Also Read: This Way China Can Help India In The Terms of Artificial Intelligence

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Economic Analysis at the Treasury Department Setser stressed the United States should not label China as a currency manipulator at this moment.

“It would undermine the United States’ credibility to name China at a point in time when there is no plausible case that China is managing its exchange rate in a way that is adverse to the U.S. interest,” he said.  VOA