Deepening Sino-Indian cultural ties

By Rachana Gupta
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, December 24, 2018
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An Indian viewer waits to watch Chinese movies during the Chinese Film Festival in Kolkata, capital of eastern Indian state West Bengal, on July 17, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

Another Amir Khan starred Bollywood movie "Thugs of Hindustan" is all set to hit the Chinese box office this month. The last two years proved to be exceptional for the Indian films in China, which started with the huge success of "Dangal" and continued until recently with the release of "Hichki."

This inclination towards Indian movies, however, is not new among Chinese audiences. Decades back, a Raj Kapoor classic "Awaara" resonated with the masses. It was broadcast on Chinese national television, and the song from this movie, "Awaara Hoon" is still sung fondly by some elderly people. 

Although this entertainment-based relationship between the two countries saw a steep fall in the decades to follow, a Bollywood cult "3 Idiots" reignited momentum for Indian movies. Most of the audiences – especially young people – felt a strong connection with the story because of its strong parallel with the Chinese education system and the related social pressure on students. 

Moving ahead, the cultural exchanges also got a major boost in the year 2017, when "Dangal" – a true story of two gritty female wrestlers from conservative Haryana State defying social norms and stereotypes. The film earned US$193 million. Before this, yet another Amir Khan movie PK grossed US$20 million in China. 

These successes caught the attention of the Indian filmmakers and in order to capitalize on the increasing popularity of Indian movies in the lucrative Chinese market, several other movies were also released within a short span of time. 

The list includes "Secret Superstar" (US$119 million), "Toilet: Ek Prem Katha" (US$14.2 million), "Hindi Medium" (US$32.7 million), "Bajrangi Bhaijaan" (US$45.5 million), "Baahubali: The Conclusion" (US$11.9 million), "Sultaan" (US$5.4 million) and "Hichki" (US$20.67 million). 

Tan Zheng, a film critic at the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles has stated: "Many of the social issues tackled in Indian films resonate with Chinese audiences because there is a similar reality in Chinese society, making Indian films come across as more authentic and relatable."

It can be noted that the cultural exchanges between India and China aren't recent and have been there for centuries. These exchanges date back to 1500-1000 B.C. The historians had discovered some evidence of conceptual and linguistic exchanges between the ancient Shang-Zhou civilization of China and the ancient Vedic civilization of India. 

Also, many Buddhist pilgrims and scholars traveled from India to China and vice versa via the historic "Silk Road" during the first, second and third centuries A.D. The most famous among these were Fa Xian and Xuan Zang, the famous Buddhist monks who are renowned for bringing Buddhism to China. 

The two governments have been making concerted efforts in recent years to boost cultural exchanges. For instance, a center for Indian studies was set-up in Peking University in 2003 in a bid to facilitate academic exchanges. Centers for Indian studies were also established in other universities across China, such as Shenzhen, Jinan, Fudan, Guangdong, and Shanghai International Studies University. 

In recent years, China has also become an increasingly popular destination for further studies among Indian students. According to the Education Ministry, there are approximately 18,000 Indian students studying in China in comparison to the number of 765 a decade ago. 

Similarly, efforts are also being undertaken to revive the historical bond between the neighboring nations by constructing new monuments. A Xuan Zang memorial was constructed in February 2007 in Nalanda, Bihar State, followed by the construction and inauguration of a Buddhist temple by India in Luoyang in China's Henan Province in May 2010. 

A major watershed event from both the trade and cultural perspectives between China and India is the inauguration of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Especially, the pet-project has been designed with the idea of rejuvenating the historical ties with the nations along the original Silk Road. 

This mega-project will not only facilitate the trade relations, along with the free-flow of goods and services but also improve people to people exchanges. 

Beyond the governmental initiatives, many corporates are also contributing to deepening the cultural ties. Some of these are doing so by exploring the opportunities in co-production of movies. For instance, the Chinese studios Taihe Entertainment and Shinework Pictures produced "Kung Fu Yoga" in 2017 featuring both Chinese and Indian actors. 

A publicity still from "Kung Fu Yoga" [Photo/Xinhua]

The film was released in both countries and grossed US$254.2 million. Similarly, Rama group, which is already an established name in the Indian Film industry, entered the Chinese market as ShengYa Culture & Media in 2017 and is registered in Ningbo as HanYa Culture and Media. The company aims to create cultural awareness across Asia. 

Additionally, the group has also introduced RAMA United tokens using latest blockchain technology for mutual settlements between the advertisers, content creators and users of Star Chat and Film Face apps. Star Chat is an e-commerce platform to connect stars with their followers while Film Face is a subscription-based application for watching movies from across the globe. 

Group Chairman John Sudheer said: "These applications will not only help Indian movies but also help the Chinese movies and stars to reach to the Indian audiences with ease."

There is a strong momentum that can be seen clearly on cultural and economic fronts between India and China. The strong historical cultural ties, improved bilateral relations, strategic focus on cultural aspects under the BRI and the growing popularity of Indian cinema in China together indicate towards the beginning of an era of a strong cultural bond between the two major economies in the 21st century. 

Rachana Gupta is a China Focus columnist, an expert author of Ezine Articles and an active blogger and poetry writer.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors only, not necessarily those of

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