Beyond India-China fight, Dangal sparks feminism debate in the “land of dragons”

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The popular Bollywood movie, Dangal, starring superstar Aamir Khan, released recently in China has become a box-office hit in the country. However, at the same time, the movie has sparked debate on feminism across China.

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There is no doubt that Dangal mania–based on former wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat (played by Khan) and his two champion daughters–Geeta and Babita–has gripped India’s neighbour.

Dangal released across 9,000 theatres in China earlier this month has already made over Rs 450 crores, reported trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

But at the same time, many in China feel that the film is sexist and patriarchal in nature. However, not all agree, others in China say the film showcases women power— something Indian viewers too feel so.

According to Chinese newspaper, Global Times, on popular Chinese culture site Douban.com, where the movie received an aggregate rating of 9.2 out of 10 based on user reviews, hundreds of people also submitted low ratings and bad reviews.

One review read, ‘The father’s values make me vomit, he forces his daughters to live a certain type of life with his dream, with money and becoming a champion. You think the movie is about breaking gender stereotypes, but actually it’s knee-deep in prejudice.’

Another said, ‘The movie reeks of patriarchy and male chauvinism. The daughters didn’t have any freedom to choose and were raised ferociously by their father to be world champions. The ‘correct result’ in the championship justifies the father’s education.’

However, not all agree with the view that Dangal promotes patriarchy.

‘I think you might understand the father as an expression of patriarchy, but that’s not the point of the story,’ said Sophia Zhu, a Beijing resident. ‘He taught his children to be brave, to persist no matter what others say. I think that shows he taught them to have an independent spirit.’

The film was released across China as Shuaijiao Baba or Let’s Wrestle, Father, on May 6.

At a time when India and China relationship has hit a new low after New Delhi decided to skip the One Belt, One Road summit which concluded on Monday in Beijing, it is interesting to see how Chinese people are enjoying and debating an Indian movie with such passion.

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