On May 31, 2019, India’s heartthrob Hrithik Roshan, dubbed the “sexiest Bollywood actor,” came to Beijing to promote Kaabil, his first movie screened on China’s mainland. During his stay in China, he and his team showed great kindness, professionalism, modesty, and politeness, which have deeply impressed his Chinese fans and audience.
Roshan’s fine facial features, attractive body shape and green eyes won him the nickname “Greek God” in India. His Chinese fans lovingly call him “Da Shuai,” which means “extremely handsome” in Mandarin. Despite his gorgeous appearance, Roshan’s film works, by which he proved himself, are what catapulted him to the top tier in Bollywood. He and his works have received various Indian film awards for more than 200 times. Movies in which he starred such as Krrish 3 (2013), Krrish (2006), Koi... Mil Gaya (2003), Jodhaa Akbar (2008), Guzaarish (2010), and Dhoom 2 (2006) are well-known in India.
As a researcher of Indian films, I was lucky enough to have a face-to-face conversation with Roshan in Beijing. I briefly introduced my research developments and spoke about the difficulties in data collection. “It’s not hard. It’s not hard,” Roshan spoke to me with a comforting tone. He asked his agent to exchange his contact details with me and told me that I could reach to him if I have any difficulties. What he did greatly surprised and encouraged me. Moved by his manners, I was even more proud of my studies on Indian films.
In 2019, Super 30 and War, two of Roshan’s films, were released back to back. The two movies have won box office success and critical acclaim in both Indian and overseas markets. A biographical drama film, Super 30 is based on the life of Indian mathematician Anand Kumar. Growing up in a poor family, the math genius, who once lost his opportunity for further studies due to poverty, started a training program named “Super 30” to help poverty-stricken aspirants for the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) pass the entrance test. IIT is a highly reputed technical institute and boasts the strictest teaching management among Indian institutions of higher education. The film criticizes and reflects on social problems including the stratification of Indian society, the gap between the rich and the poor, and the unfair distribution of educational resources. Anand Kumar, played by Hrithik Roshan, is vividly portrayed in the film as a man of flesh and blood. The film, quite an inspiring work, also showed in detail the journey of poor students growing from being downtrodden to becoming strong in their own right.
Mega blockbuster War has every element for box office success. It features action, suspense, spy tactics, and love, among other things. The film’s trailer had garnered many likes from the audience and generated heated discussions as the film promised to be a high-octane action-packed thriller. Attracting large audiences with its good reputation after its release, the film easily became the Bollywood box office winner of 2019, and grossed 4.75 billion Indian rupees worldwide. We expect to see the two movies on Chinese big screens in the near future.
January 10, 2020 marked Roshan’s 46th birthday, and this January also marked the 20th anniversary of his acting career. In 2000, Roshan made his smashing debut in the film industry with Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai, which made him an overnight sensation. However, his road to stardom was not smooth. Growing up to be an international superstar from being an object of ridicule because of his stammer and six fingers on one hand, to the dancing king and action superstar from a desperate young man who was told by doctors that he could never dance because of spinal problems, Roshan has seen ups and downs in the past 20 years in the trade. He was often questioned, but he proved himself even more. His family and fans are always there for him. Every year on his birthday, Roshan’s fans spontaneously gather outside his house to celebrate it. This year, several of his Chinese fans, including me, came to India for this occasion, bringing with us hopes and blessings from China.
Roshan lived in a seaside apartment near Juhu Beach, Mumbai. Since it was not a single-family detached home and there were neighbors around, fans who arrived early waited quietly. There, I met fans from such countries as Germany and Indonesia, and of course, from around India. Some of them wore T-shirts with images of Roshan or his works, some put on the uniforms of their local fan clubs, and some wore clothes of Roshan-backed fashion brands, holding signature cards and gifts in their hands. With different nationalities and colors, the excitement of all people was the same. In high spirits, we spontaneously danced to music in a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. Unfortunately, Roshan didn’t feel well that day, but he still came to the balcony, waved to us and expressed his thanks with arms around his chest.
After Roshan learned that some of the fans came from afar, he insisted on meeting them the next day although he was still not well. With the temperature at 30 degrees Celsius in Mumbai, he wore a heavy coat and gloves. I thought he might be quite ill. Even so, he met everyone patiently. When he saw me and the other several Chinese fans, “I remember your faces,” he blurted out. We expressed our good wishes for him and welcomed him to visit China again. He was happy to receive our traditional Chinese gifts, and took pictures with us.
The significance of our trip to India is far more than just one intimate contact between an Indian movie star and his Chinese fans. It lies in the bond of the film cultures that have enhanced the friendly exchanges between the two peoples. In recent years, China-India co-productions including Kung Fu Yoga, Buddies in India, and Xuan Zang have laid the foundation for cooperation in the film industry between the two countries. An increasing number of Indian movies have entered the Chinese market. Films reflecting on social realities such as Dangal and Secret Superstar brought tears to millions of Chinese viewers. I hope that in the future, more Chinese audiences will understand and become familiar with Indian film culture, more excellent films from both countries can be accepted and loved by people from both sides, and more communication will be possible between filmmakers and fans from both countries.
The author is a lecturer of the Department of Digital Media and Arts in the School of Art & Design, Dalian Polytechnic University. Her research fields include Indian films, comparative studies on Chinese and foreign films, and new media arts.