Aamir Khan's wrestling movie Dangal takes China by storm, becomes the first Indian film to make 20 billion rupees

Cinema still from the movie Dangal. PHOTO: DANGAL

Mumbai (AFP, Reuters) - Bollywood star Aamir Khan's hit wrestling movie Dangal has become the first Indian film to make 20 billion rupees or (S$428 million), analysts said on Wednesday, as it takes China's cinemas by storm.

The Hindi movie's record-breaking run has set a new and previously unthought of box office benchmark for Bollywood films abroad and also highlighted the value of the Chinese audience to Indian film-makers.

"Dangal has crossed the 2,000 crore mark" - 20 billion - "which has never been done before," Indian film trade analyst Ramesh Bala said, pointing out that the previous top Bollywood grosser, PK, made just US$120 million (S$165 million) worldwide.

"Even 1,000 crore was a distant dream just a few months back. The bar has now been set very high."

Dangal, directed by Nitesh Tiwari, is based on the true story of wrestling coach Mahavir Singh Phogat, who defies the odds by raising his daughters Geeta and Babita to be champion wrestlers. Geeta won a gold medal for India at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, as did her sister in 2014.

It is a departure from the syrupy romances and action flicks with colourful song-and-dance sequences that Bollywood is famous for.

Instead, it highlights the realities of the fight for gender equality in India which, like China, has a preference for sons and where women are pressured to marry young.

It has become an unlikely hit in China, the country with the most serious gender imbalance in the world.

Dangal is the highest-grossing non-Hollywood foreign film released in China, which alone has contributed around US$190 million to Dangal's takings, the analyst said.

The "ideas of breaking gender roles and reforming education inspired by the film have struck a chord with many Chinese parents", the official Xinhua news agency said.

About 118 boys are born for every 100 girls in China.

Chinese officials in 2015 described the gender imbalance among newborns as "the most serious and prolonged" in the world, a direct ramification of the country's strict one-child policy.

The measure, introduced in 1979 to limit population growth, had led to families aborting female foetuses and abandoning baby girls, practices that are also common in India.

Dangal was released in India on Dec 23 last year and quickly became the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time, beating the 2014 science fiction film PK, which also stars Khan. It also sparked a conversation on gender bias in the country, which has a ratio of 933 women to 1,000 men.

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