This week a Chinese delegation led by Jiang Jianguo, vice minister at the State Administration for Press, Publicity, Radio, Film & TV (SAPPRFT), met India’s new secretary for Information and Broadcasting Bimal Julka in New Delhi, ahead of a series of meetings with Indian film industry leaders in Mumbai.
The two giant neighbors have significant amounts of trade in goods and services, but in the entertainment and media sectors interaction is close to zero.
The occasional border skirmishes and the always delicate diplomatic relations between Indian and Chinese governments may have meant that cultural connections have not been able to flourish. But with China seen as the world’s next superpower and India now operating under a new government, albeit a Hindu nationalist one, change is in the air.
The Indian ministry was quick to announce China as the “focus country” at the next edition of the government-backed Intl. Film Festival of India (IFFI) held in November in Goa.
There was also talk of student exchanges, co-operation in new media and the setting up of a joint working group on the film sector.
India sees China as potentially significant export market for film as it once was in previous decades. The Chinese market these days is largely off-limits to Indian films due to a combination of official import restrictions and the quota slots for revenue sharing films that are largely taken by Hollywood blockbusters.
The I&B ministry is understood to have asked Jiang to review its import controls and limitations to distribution within China. “The I&B touched upon issues related to the restriction of Indian films in the Chinese market and asked them to look into the matter sympathetically,” it said in a statement.
Others indicated that India would be pleased if its films gained two or three of the 34 revenue sharing releases governed by China’s current quota system.
Many Indian producers believe that if a free market for film were to exist in China their titles would do well. Many Indian movies are high-concept crowdpleasers or family entertainment with little in the way of sex or graphic violence to trouble China’s censors.
Such optimism has been fueled by the small but significant successes enjoyed in the past couple of years by Indian film in other parts of East Asia, and, more dubiously, by the levels of piracy of Indian movies in China.
One leading Bollywood company, Yash Raj Films, is not waiting for quota slots to open.
Next month YRF’s big-budget Aamir Khan starring action vehicle “Dhoom 3” (pictured), which was released in India in December, will get a theatrical release in China. Yash Raj, which was also behind “Grace of Monaco” and “Titli,” the two Indian-financed films in Cannes, reports that it has been told the picture will receive a 2,000-screen release on July 25. The distributor is state-owned China Film Group, which also handles all the major Hollywood releases in China, but the “Dhoom” deal is a flat fee sale (which YRF describes as a minimum guarantee deal) rather than a revenue-sharing quota release.
Indian officials say they are also pushing for two other films to get speedy releases in China: Vikas Bahl’s Viacom18-backed “Queen,” a surprise hit romantic drama about a jilted bride who goes on what would have been her honeymoon alone; and Rakeysh Omprakesh Mehra’s Reliance Big Pictures-backed “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,”a biopic about Olympian Milkha Singh, who confronts the political demons that caused him to take up running in the first place.
“Queen” gets a mainstream theatrical release today in Hong Kong. That is the film’s second release in the Chinese semi-autonomous territory. “Queen” was released earlier to the Indian expat community in Hong Kong simultaneous with its Indian outing in early April.