BEIJING’S AFFAIR WITH AAMIR
Fan hysteria during the actor’s visit for the screening of Dangal draws comparisons with Raj Kapoor’s popularity
Ramila, from China’s western Xinjiang province, isn’t a wrestling fan, but she lined up for an entire day for the first Beijing screening of Dangal—or Shuaijiao Baba (Dad, Let’s Wrestle!), as the film has been christened in China. Ramila was there for just one reason. “Aamir!” she screamed. “I first saw him in films with Kajol. Since then, I’ve been his biggest fan.”
China’s affair with Aamir is getting stronger. As Dangal releases in the country on May 5, distributors are banking on the Aamir magic. On the first evening of his weeklong visit to China, when Aamir appeared on a popular live video platform, two million people tuned in. Fans posted thousands of questions within minutes, asking about his Dangal diet and his future plans. One wrote, “I learnt English just for you!” Most simply declared, “I love you!”
“In the beginning, none of my films was popular in China,” says Aamir. “That was until 3 Idiots. Dhoom 3 and PK also did well here.” PK earned over Rs 100 crore, the highest overseas gross for an Indian film in any foreign market. “I feel closer to people in China than in the West,” he says. “It would be wonderful if we do films that have creative talent from China and India.”
Some in China have dubbed Aamir the most popular Indian star in China since Raj Kapoor. That is saying a lot—Kapoor’s films were a craze in the 1970s, and Beijing taxi drivers still hum Awara hoon. That connection faded as the Middle Kingdom embraced Hollywood and China turned westward. Aamir has rekindled the romance.
Aamir Khan at the Beijing International Film Festival on April 16, where Dangal was screened