Kanaa, the Tamil sports drama starring Aishwarya Rajesh, will release in China on March 18. In conversation with Silverscreen India, co-producer Kalai Arasu explains that despite plans for releasing the Sivakarthikeyan production in the country being underway since 2019, China’s stringent clearance process, and later, the Covid-19 pandemic caused a delay.
“The negotiations started in early 2019 and everything was sorted, with all the necessary paperwork completed by April 2019. But, due to strict rules and regulations in China, getting a release date there is a difficult task as it requires clearance by the film bureau. The already time-consuming process was further delayed due to Covid-19. That is why it has taken such a long time for the film to premiere in China,” he says.
China’s lucrative film market is guarded by the country’s censorship laws. The restrictive policies only allow the release of a limited number of foreign films and it is highly dependent on the country’s relations with other nations.
Accordingly, in the wake of the 2020 border conflict between India and China at Pangong lake in Ladakh, Indian films did not release in China for nearly two years. Eventually, Nitesh Tiwari’s Chhichhore locked a China release date in January 2022, hinting at an easing of tensions between the two nations.
Kalai Arasu tells us that the makers of Kanaa ensured a high production value for the film as they were keen on a Chinese release since the start, being inspired by the success of other sports drama films like Dangal.
It may be noted that although several Indian films have been released in China through the years, only movies like the Oscar-nominated Lagaan (2001), Dangal (2016), and Secret Superstar (2017) managed to make a dent in the world’s largest film market. Lagaan became the first Indian film to have a nationwide release in China in 2002. Dangal was released in the country in May 2017 and went on to collect close to $190 million, making it the highest-grossing Indian film in the China. Secret Superstar, a story about a teenage girl who aspires to be a singer, hit Chinese screens in January 2018 and became the fifth highest-grossing foreign film and second highest-grossing non-English film of the year in China.
Chinese audiences tend to resonate more with emotional stories, and those that reflect their society and culture.
This was why Kanaa struck a chord with Chinese distributors as well, says Arasu. “We were very happy when they saw it and said that they connected with the emotions portrayed in the story. Their backgrounds are very similar to ours, in terms of how women are treated, the practice of agriculture, and the other concerns that the film deals with.”
Kanaa, which marked the debut of both Arunraja Kamaraj as a director and the Sivakarthikeyan Productions banner, is centred around a girl who dreams about making it big in the world of cricket. It was one of the first Tamil films about women’s cricket and was released in cinemas in India on December 21, 2018. The film, which also stars Sathyaraj and Sivakarthikeyan, was remade in Telugu as Kousalya Krishnamurthy.
During a press conference in 2018, director Kamaraj had said that with Sathyaraj’s role as a farmer, the movie was as much about the plight of farmers as it was about women’s cricket.
Mentioning that the film will release in the Chinese mainland, Arasu adds that he is currently awaiting other details like screen count and the regions where the film will be released.
Kanaa will be distributed in China by Yi Shi Films.