Its ludicrous to imply that Bollywood and the Chinese film industry could have any impact on relations between India and China, let alone reflect any warming between the two states.
I was taken aback by a recent article in the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s leading newspaper, entitled “Bollywood calling” by Charukesi Ramadurai, which surmised “after years of friction, relations between two of the world’s oldest cultures appear to be on the mend – so what if pop culture is the catalyst?”
She describes an increasing interest of Bollywood in China, and a growing inclusion of ‘Chinese’ themes in Indian cinema. Charukesi was right to spot a trend, as there have been many movies over the years either set in China or China-themed, for example Awara Hoon (1951), China Town (1962), Naam (1986), and more recently, Chandni Chowk to China (2009).
And as for Chinese movies in India, Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee have long been popular. Now Cindy Shyu has decided to make a brave move to merge the two, in Goldstruck, which will be produced jointly by the China Film Group, Lighthouse Productions (HK), and Eros International. It will play on racial stereotypes as two characters, one Indian and one Chinese, join forces to experiment how to turn bronze into gold.
It is granted that the two countries’ interests in each others’ film industries marks a gradual change in attitude, and that pop culture has often been something that softens tensions between peoples. The same has happened between China and Japan, China and South Korea; the Chinese being big fans of Japanese and Korean culture and dramas. However, if we look a little deeper, we can still find the underlying bitterness between Chinese and Japanese/Korean politicians, especially when territorial disputes and war memory rear their ugly heads again.
The same will go for Indo-Chinese relations, even if Bollywood does strike gold in China, or vice versa. It will be interesting to see what happens with the filming of Goldstruck as it will require the Chinese government to give a lot of leeway to the film crews and regarding its censorship.
On a local level in both India and China, it will still take time for attitudes towards each other to go beyond an “ooh, aah” wonderment at the colours of Indian dance or the skill of martial arts. We must remember that underneath the glitz and glam of the crouching tigers, there are always hidden politicians.