Source : http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/uncle-aamirs-charm-offensive-on-millennials/article22716336.ece?homepage=true&utm_campaign=socialflow
In the battle for Chinese hearts and minds, Aamir Khan is an unrivalled winner. His latest offering, Secret Superstar, has taken the Chinese box office by storm. Mr. Khan has now earned the title of “Uncle Aamir” on Chinese social media. With that anointment, he has entered a rarefied space, reserved for the likes of the country’s President Xi Jinping, in the Chinese collective consciousness.
Mr. Khan is no stranger to China. His affair with the Middle Kingdom began in the last decade with Lagaan, which struck a chord with the Chinese audiences, whose brush with perceived humiliation brought about by former European colonisers had been chorusing in high decibels in school textbooks, party literature and the mass media.
Another offering of Mr. Khan, 3 idiots, which called upon young students to realise their dreams even if it meant resisting parental pressure, resonated spontaneously with Chinese people undergoing similar experiences. The momentum built by ‘Brand Aamir’ seemed to have peaked with the mega success of Dangal, steering clear of the shadow of last summer’s Doklam border stand-off between the two countries. However, Secret Superstar — which sensitively portrays the aspirations of a Muslim singer in today’s digital India — has broken all previous records. It has grossed a jaw-dropping $46 million within a week of its release in China, overshadowing even the collections of James Cameron’s Avatar. Douban, which ranks films based on viewer response in China, gave Secret Superstar a rare eight out of 10 points. “The movie, a coming-of-age story about a Muslim teenage girl who dreams of fame as a singer and finds it after uploading a YouTube video, has struck a chord with Chinese audiences who see many of India’s social issues — the film tackles gender inequality and domestic violence, among others — reflected in their own experiences,” wrote the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post(SCMP).
Buddha, Tagore... and Aamir
Another SCMP article attempted to impart a historical fix to the Aamir Khan phenomena in China, as a successor to the eras of Buddha, Tagore and Raj Kapoor. “While the Buddha has long had a deep impact across the Himalayas, Rabindranath Tagore’s stories have enthralled Chinese readers since the early 20th century, and then Bollywood stars Raj Kapoor and Nargis got them humming Indian film songs in the 1950s. Most recently, however, Aamir Khan has drawn a new generation of Chinese fans to the power of Indian storytelling,” wrote Tansen Sen in the daily.
Mr. Khan’s soft-power interventions could not have been better timed. Arguably, they have effectively contributed to countering the negativity in social attitudes towards India as a fallout of the Doklam crisis. In fact, Mr. Khan’s films seem to have generated a deep empathy among the young Chinese for the trials and tribulations of regular but aspirational Indian millennials who are seeking their place under the sun, braving pressures from family and combating diehard prejudices based on gender, religion and more.
Mr. Khan seems well-aware that a breakthrough may already have been achieved in drawing young Indians into the psychological horizon of China’s ‘generation next’. The next step may involve generating a matching empathy among Indians for the well-intentioned “dreamers” who live across the Himalayas. “I want to do a film with Chinese and Indian talent,” Mr. Khan said during a recent visit to China. “It would be really wonderful… It would bring the two countries closer.”
Atul Aneja works for The Hindu and is based in Beijing