On the superstar's 53rd birthday, we speak to some people across the Himalayas to find out what Aamir Khan means to them.
Aamir Khan birthday: Fans from China speak about ‘Uncle Aamir’
Mumbai - 14 Mar 2018 4:00 IST
Updated : 17:40 IST
A huge number of Aamir Khan fans waited for hours for a glimpse of the man. When he finally arrived, a surge of excitement ran through the crowd and the Dangal (2016) actor was almost mobbed.
Such scenes are normal in India where movie stars are often worshipped. But the incident described here happened not in India but in China when the star went there to promote Secret Superstar (2017).
Who would have thought a modern Hindi film actor would achieve demi-god status in the neighbouring country with which India shares its longest border and a troubled relationship? But then you can always trust Aamir Khan to achieve the impossible.
The actor first came to the notice of the Chinese movie-going public when his blockbuster 3 Idiots (2009) was released there. With the release of PK (2014), Khan officially became a star in China. And his popularity simply increased manifold when Dangal and, later, Secret Superstar were released in Chinese.
Speaking about Aamir Khan's stardom in China, trade analyst Atul Mohan said, “What Jackie Chan was for Indians in the 1980s and 1990s, Aamir Khan is today for people in China, He is Indian cinema’s ambassador to China.”
Atul Mohan says the rapid and huge increase in the number of cinema halls in China has also helped Khan's cause. He said, “Who would have thought China would be such a great market for Indian films? When 3 Idiots was released there, China did not have many screens, but it now has a huge number of screens. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report in June 2017, China edged ahead of the US with 41,056 screens, while the latter had just 40,928.
On Aamir Khan’s 53rd birthday today, we got talking to some of his fans in China to understand what he means to them.
Gavin Feng, a student and Chinese movie enthusiast, saw 3 Idiots for the first time while still in school. “I was a junior high school student in 2010 when my teacher showed the [pirated video] to the whole class," she said. "My classmates and I enjoyed it. The conditions of education are similar in China and India. So Chinese connected with the story and Aamir Khan suddenly became a famous actor." The film was later officially released in China in 2011.
But PK impressed them much more. “It was the most amazing work from Aamir after 3 Idiots," Feng said. "It was unimaginable for an Indian movie to be so huge in China before.”
PK's success also stoked interest in Aamir Khan's earlier work. “People came to know more about him. His movies like Ghajini (2008), Taare Zameen Par (2007) and Rang De Basanti (2006) are also popular now among movie fans.”
Talking about his popularity in China, she said, “People love Aamir Khan. So far, I think only an indian movie within Aamir Khan can make it huge in China. The name Aamir Khan is the reason why so many people go to see an Indian movie.”
Karen Chen, who works at a consultancy firm, believes that watching an Aamir Khan film is now a must for people of her age in China. She hopes for an Indo-Chinese co-production soon. “No matter if you are Aamirian (sic) or not, his film means everything," Chen said. "We don't need to take more advice. People know they will see his film. I think Aamir has become an icon of the Indian film industry, and built a solid bridge between our two countries. There is definitely more to be expected in the aspect of cultural exchange. Maybe an Indo-China film?”
Zhuangqiange, a young journalist in Beijing, recalled how Aamir Khan’s popularity grew after Dangal. “I think his movies are really good and attract audiences with all their elements," he said. "I don’t know too much about his other films, but I have seen his highly reputed ones and I think they are good."
Zhuangqiange said lots of young people watched 3 Idiots, but "the heat didn't seem to last long then. But after Dangal last year, things became different. I think this is the main reason for his booming reputation in the country."
Dangal and Secret Superstar have ensured that Aamir Khan became a trending topic on the Chinese social media. “Lots of posts and pictures about him went viral on social media platforms in China," Zhuangqiange said. "They were mainly about the man's history and career, like how did he shape himself to be a fat, middle-aged father from a well-shaped man, and how he is treasured in his own country as a movie star, and the efforts he has made to raise public awareness of current women's social status in India,” he said.
Here is a video of Aamir Khan's reception in China during the promotions of Secret Superstar.
Coming to the public awareness part, Aamir Khan’s TV show Satyamev Jayate, too, has become popular in China. “The Chinese are attracted by his appearance and have fallen for his talent," Chen said. "He not only entertains by his work but also delivers information worth thinking about after watching the film. He is faithful to his personality. As a celebrity, he is trying to make India or even the world a better place to live through his TV show.”
Khan's transformation during the making of Dangal, where he become lean and muscular after becoming fat, has also inspired fans in China. “He is my motivation to lose weight," Chen added. "As we all know his transformation in Dangal. I think it is quite fun to meet a different me through my own effort. As Aamir always does, he has a totally different look in each of his films.”
Karen Chen is so besotted with Khan that she can’t stop thinking about her meeting with the superstar. “I met him in Beijing at a Secret Superstar promotion," she said. "Chinese Fan Club had prepared a dance on ‘Sexy Baliye’. We had planned in many ways to invite him to join our dance. To be honest, I was worried if we would fail. But I chose to trust our Uncle Aamir. The result was that he didn’t let us down, just like his film. Unexpectedly, he jumped on stage and danced with us before we invited him! It's still very difficult for me to describe my feeling!”
Chen prepared her own version of the song ‘Meri Pyari Ammi’ from Secret Superstar, which you can check out below.
Hello everyone,this is my second videoãÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂMeri Pyaari AmmiãÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ(In ChineseðÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ¨ðÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ³).As a gift to my #SecretSuperstar Thank you for bringing me to the worldðÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ and always giving me the courage to dream.Guess where's our next stopï¼ÂÂÂÂÂÂÂðÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ¡Hint:#AamirKhan pic.twitter.com/vtRRdGFJs3— Karen Chen (@karenccw) March 9, 2018
Mayur Lookhar contributed to this report.