India at its Heart, Blockbuster Breaks Many Rules in China

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Highlighting the escalating cost of health care in China, a low-budget comedy with Indian low-cost cancer drugs at its heart is resonating well with Chinese audience, crossing $400 million at the box office.

“Dying to Survive” has gained remarkable popularity in China pushing the box-office sales in July 37 per cent higher, which according to Bloomberg is the highest level since at least 2010.

That the movie has struck a chord in China is critical, as it addresses the long pressing issue of unaffordable cost of medical care in the country. In an official statement earlier this month, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang cited the movie while making an appeal to the country’s regulators to “speed up price cuts for cancer drugs”.

The movie is based on real life exploits of a small drug store owner, who smuggles generic cancer medication from India to sell to Chinese cancer patients. Many scenes in the movie were shot in Mumbai, from where the drugs are shown being smuggled in ships heading to China.

Diagnosed with leukaemia, Lu Yong was prescribed Novartis-manufactured Gleevec, which costs approximately Rs 2.5 lakh a bottle in China. After spending a fortune on the drug, Lu switched to low cost Indian cancer drug Veenat, costing him approximately one-tenth of Gleevec.

Lu was arrested in 2014 after he made it his life’s mission to help others like him to survive cancer by distributing in China the smuggled Indian drugs.

Off lately, Chinese audience has lapped up Indian releases like Dangal, which are critical of social issues plaguing our society and show a new hope in the face of adversity.

We hope this is the start of a trend that would continue well into the future.

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