Aamir Khan in his new film Secret Superstar (Photo provided to China Daily)
Aamir Khan was in China last week to promote his latest Hindi film Secret Superstar. During his weeklong stay, first in Shanghai and then in Beijing, the Indian actor also found out that he has become a major celebrity in a country where Bollywood's reach has been traditionally limited.
Some local analysts compare his stardom in China to that of Hollywood actors Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Others wonder if Khan is an activist actor. Still others describe him as a feminist. The Chinese media seem to have settled for Mishu, or Uncle Aamir.
The surprising rise in popularity of the 52-year-old Bollywood star is owing to his cinema of social relevance that Chinese moviegoers don't get enough of from their own industry as well as his savvy marketing and China outreach. At more than 1 million, Khan has the most followers for an Indian on Sina Weibo, the country's Twitter-like platform.
Secret Superstar, a rare Indian film to be screened on a revenue-sharing basis in the world's second-largest movie market, had made more than 400 million yuan ($63 million) earlier this week. The story of a teenage Muslim girl's fight against ugly patriarchy to realize her dreams was released in China on Jan 19.
"This story is really about that struggle of achieving your dreams and never giving up on them," Khan said at an event for the film in Beijing on Jan 23.
Last year, his film Dangal, inspired by the real journey of an Indian wrestler through a conservative landscape to turn his daughters into world-class athletes, had made nearly 1.3 billion yuan.