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Wang Baoqiang stands in stark contrast with his peers in the Chinese movie industry. He never formally studied acting and can hardly be classified as a heartthrob. Since he lacks certain star qualities,”simple,””unadorned,” and”a little silly” have become the most commonly used adjectives to describe Wang.
In late January, during the Spring Festival holiday——China’s blockbuster movie season——Wang’s directorial debut, the action adventure comedy Buddies in India, hit big screens in China. Starring and directed by Wang, the film grossed more than US$100 million in just three weeks after its release. Whether acting or directing, Wang consistently brings pleasant surprises to his audience.
A Dream Comes True
In 1984, Wang was born into a poverty-stricken family in Xingtai City, Hebei Province. According to his mother, the family was so poor that young Wang always wore hand-me-downs from his elder brother and sister. As a child, Wang watched The Shaolin Temple, a 1982 Hong Kong-Chinese mainland kung fu movie starring Jet Li, countless times, inspiring the boy to dream of studying martial arts and film.
In the hope of realizing this dream, Wang began learning martial arts at the age of six. From age eight to 14, he studied at the Songshan Mountain-based Shaolin Temple in Henan Province as a secular disciple. During his six-year stay at the Buddhist temple, Wang woke at 4:00 a.m. in summer and 5:00 a.m. in winter for a morning jog. And his twice-a-week stamina training required him to run more than 20 kilometers each time. Because of such grueling training, Wang could only return home once a year, for the Spring Festival, during the entire six years —— even though the temple is only a few hundred kilometers from his home.
When interviewed by the media after Buddies in India was released, Wang revealed his motivation for making the film:”It was my childhood dream.”
Wang and his younger brother were greatly influenced by actor Liu Xiao Ling Tong, who is best known for his role as the Monkey King in the iconic 1986 Chinese TV adaptation of the 16th-Century novel Journey to the West. Both boys fantasized about becoming the Monkey King and having his martial arts skills. However, the family could only afford to send one boy to the Shaolin Temple to study martial arts, so Wang promised to teach his brother after completing his studies. Unfortunately, his younger brother passed away before Wang completed his study at the Shaolin Temple. Wang could never fulfill his promise. He hoped that Buddies in India would be a start.
The film follows a humble Wu Kong (Wang Baoqiang) as he accompanies the son of a recently deceased wealthy businessman to India to find his will.