Aamir Khan's Dangal, running to packed houses here, has sparked a furious debate in China, with some viewers saying it broke gender stereotypes and others holding it reeked of prejudice and made them vomit. The film, on a man's dream of turning his daughters into wrestlers, has raked in about USD 72 million since it was released two weeks ago. But while it has been widely acclaimed, it has also been panned by a large section of people, especially by feminists. On the 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, local media reports said. 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." While Dangal was being advertised in China, it was touted as a feminist film because the lead female character in the movie struggled against patriarchal beliefs and ended up winning a gold medal for India, an article in the state run Global Times said today. But some aspects of the film sparked a fierce online debate on whether the film could be seen as a feminist story. Those who said it was not a pro-woman film, pointed out that the father did not give his daughters a choice but forced them to take up wrestling.
He made them cut their hair short and denied them their favourite food when they were training. But there was an equally vocal section which said the film broke gender stereotypes. "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 daily quoted her as saying. This debate has also caught the attention of well-known film reviewers and critics. Dushe Dianying, a film criticism app especially popular among the young, sent out a strongly- worded article on the film. "I'm not saying that women should not fight for their rights, I'm saying feminist slogans that overlook cultural and social contexts and reality can be a type of hijacking. When words are tied to 'isms' their meanings change. When social phenomena are tied to 'isms' they get out of control," the article said. Ultimately, the debate over the film had turned into a discussion on Chinese feminism and whether it had taken a wrong turn, it said.