Jackie Chan’s multilingual film Kung Fu Yoga has courted controversy for having an Indian character allegedly praise Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This has led many to believe that the film contains pro-China propaganda.
The adventure comedy is set in China, India and Dubai. An Indian character in the film expresses his support for the controversial BRI project while talking to Chan. Chan plays an archaeologist expert on Indo-Chinese history.
“Basically, in the movie, the Indian archaeologist comes to China to ask Jackie Chan’s Chinese archaeologist to help her research as he’s supposed to be an expert on Indo-Chinese cross-cultural history. She says their cooperation on this aspect is ‘in line with the One Belt, One Road Policy’,” a film critic told The Hindustan Times.
The Belt and Road Initiative refers to the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, a development strategy launched by the Chinese government with the intention of promoting economic co-operation among countries along the proposed Belt and Road routes.
This multi-million dollar project had an unenthusiastic response from India, as the route passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Diplomats feel the BRI is aimed at expanding China’s strategic and economic influence worldwide and negating India’s in South Asia.
Directed by Stanley Tong, Kung Fu Yoga is one of three Indo-China movies launched in May 2015, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited China. In September 2014, the two countries had signed an audio-visual co-production treaty to bring their film industries together when Xi visited India.
However, several critics have found blatant pro-China propaganda in the film.
“Despite its subtext about the economic rivalry between China and India, the film, written and directed by Mr. Chan’s frequent collaborator Stanley Tong mostly affords Mr. Chan the opportunity to mug, share a car chase scene with a lion (seemingly with a digital assist), and thwart assailants in a pallid variation on his acrobatics of old,” notes Andy Webster of The New York Times.
“Co-producer Viacom 18, one of Bollywood’s biggest studios, soon pulled out. If the partnership had worked, one wonders if Tong would still get away with Chan’s character preaching incessantly to Indians about their history to the point where the villain yells, “Stop teaching me about my own country!”,” notes Maggie Lee of Variety.
While Kung Fu Yoga will release in India on 3 February, it is already a hit in China. Along with Jackie Chan, the film also stars Disha Pattani, Amyra Dastur, Sonu Sood, Aarif Rahman, and Chinese singer Zhang Yixing.