×

Shanghai: Rajkumar Hirani Talks China-India Film Axis, Stays Silent on Assault Accusations

Rajkumar Hirani, the Indian film director who is part of the Shanghai International Film Festival’s competition jury, says he is pleased by the reception that Indian films are getting in China.

But in conversation in Shanghai he sidestepped the accusations of sexual assault that were recently leveled against him. “I don’t think we should talk about that. I didn’t come here for this purpose,” he said.

He has elsewhere denied the allegations, and told Variety that the Shanghai festival had not reconsidered its invitation to him because of the accusations.

Instead, Hirani spoke about the breakout success of his 2009 film “3 Idiots.” It earned 13.9 million yuan ($2 million) in the Middle Kingdom.

“Apparently lots and lots of people saw it, which I still feel 10 years down the line. Every person from China I met either here or in Mumbai has seen ‘3 Idiots.’ I think it connected with them because we have similar issues in terms of education and parental pressure in India and China,” he said.

Yet when the film first hit Chinese theaters, Hirani and his team — who had sold the rights to an American distributor, IM Global, that then licensed off the China rights — didn’t even know it had been released. “It was a total surprise. We thought of [China] as a very small market” at the time,” he admitted.

He was then approached to be directly involved in the 2015 China release of his next film “PK,” which tells the story of an alien who comes to Earth in search of God because his home planet has no religion. It grossed $19.4 million.

“I always felt that it wasn’t a film for China and wouldn’t work because people here are not as religious. But it did extremely well with a limited release, which made me realize they want to see a different kind of cinema,” he said.

The two films paved the way for Aamir Khan to became the first Bollywood star to find mainstream popularity in the Middle Kingdom. Khan-starring “Dangal” grossed $193 million in the territory in 2017.

“The business in China is actually far bigger than the business in India,” Hirani said. “Aamir’s film did extremely well in India, but it did four times more business in China. The market’s massive.”

For a while, China gave the impression that every Indian film would be a smashing success there, he said, but in the past few months, a number of them hitting Chinese theaters have seen lackluster results.

“They should be selecting our films more carefully,” he said. “Since the market opened up, many distributors jumped in and started picking films left, right, and center. Suddenly not many films are doing well. You lose some credibility.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • CineLink Work in Progress Provides Step

    CineLink Work in Progress Provides Step Onto International Stage

    The Sarajevo Film Festival’s CineLink Work in Progress section has become a major venue for filmmakers from Southeastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa – this year it saw nearly 70 submissions, the most in the past decade. The competitive program boasts a large number of projects that have gone on to achieve major [...]

  • System Crasher

    Oscars: Germany Selects 'System Crasher' for International Feature Film Award

    Germany has chosen Nora Fingscheidt’s “System Crasher” as its entry for the newly re-branded International Feature Film award at the 92nd Academy Awards, it was announced Wednesday by promotional body German Films. Produced by Kineo Filmproduktion and Weydemann Bros, the film won a Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, where it received its world premiere [...]

  • Stephen Woolley Elizabeth Karlsen

    Shochiku Backs U.K.'s Number 9 Films With First-Look Deal

    Number 9 Films has signed a first-look distribution deal for its films in Japan with Japanese studio Shochiku, the British independent announced Wednesday. As part of the multi-year deal, which will focus on Number 9’s slate of theatrical films, Shochiku will contribute to the production company’s overhead as well as development funding. The first title [...]

  • Love is the Monster

    Neto Villalobos’ ‘Love is the Monster’ Heads to San Sebastian Co-Pro Forum (EXCLUSIVE)

    Costa Rican director Ernesto “Neto” Villalobos’ third feature, “Love is the Monster,” will participate in September’s San Sebastian Europe-Latin America Co-Production Forum. Having found festival success with his first two features, “All About the Feathers” and “Helmet Heads,” both drama-comedies, Villalobos will head in a different direction with “Love is the Monster,” a psychological thriller [...]

  • Pinewood Atlanta Studios

    Pinewood Group to Exit Atlanta Studios Joint Venture

    The Pinewood Group is pulling out of its Atlanta facility as it refocuses its international strategy. The group announced Wednesday that it has sold its equity in Pinewood Atlanta Studios to River’s Rock, its joint venture partner in the facility. The joint venture was set up in 2013 with Pinewood Atlanta Studios now the second [...]

  • El Principe

    Storyboard Swoops on Seven Titles for 2020 Chilean Distribution (EXCLUSIVE)

    Key Chilean independent production-distribution company Storyboard Media has announced a knock-your-socks-off slate of seven domestic features, in varying degrees of completion, to be released in Chile across 2020. Bound for Venice’s Critics’ Week, Sebastián Muñoz’s “The Prince” was a hit at last year’s works in progress section at the San Sebastian Film Festival and will [...]

  • Tigerlily

    Banijay Rights Signs First Look Deal with Tigerlily Prods.

    Seeking to expand its scripted offering, Banijay Rights has signed a first look development deal with Tigerlily Productions, a U.K. production company whose credits include David Farr’s “The Ones Below” and “Remainder” with Tom Sturridge. The deal covers scripted programming developed, created and produced by Tigerlily for the U.K. and international markets. Tigerlily Productions, which [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content