Uncle Khan has done it again.
Bollywood star Aamir Khan’s latest film, Dangal, has set a new box-office record in China, according to state-owned news portal China Internet Information Center. Four days after the movie’s release, Dangal amassed 124 million yuan ($18 million) in ticket sales to become the highest-grossing Indian movie in China. The film displaced the previous record holder, PK, which also starred Khan and had grossed 110 million yuan ($16 million).
Affectionately known as Uncle Khan by the Chinese, the 52-year-old star has a legion of fans in China who have found an emotional connection to his movies. The film Three Idiots, which screened in China in 2011, appealed to Chinese millennials because of its depiction of excessive pressures faced by India’s engineering students, something people in China could relate to.
His latest, Dangal—or 摔跤吧!爸爸 (Wrestle! Dad), as it’s known in China—is based on the true story of an Indian wrestling champion who trained two of his daughters to become world-class wrestlers after his wife gave birth to four daughters but no son. Like the film Three Idiots, the parallels between Indian and Chinese culture resonated deeply with China’s moviegoers, who innately understood India’s preference for sons and skewed sex ratio. For the role, Khan had undergone dramatic weight gain and loss, shedding 25 kg (55 lbs) for the second phase of shooting to reflect the different age of his character.
The culture similarities won the hearts of Khan’s Chinese fans, who praised him for touching on social issues. “Just watched Dangal, have to say I laughed and cried a lot, and of course was moved,” a Chinese fan commented (link in Chinese) on Khan’s Weibo. “Thank you for always being concerned about social events, rights for girls, medicine, education… [You have] enlightened me in many ways.”