New Delhi/Mumbai: Shah Rukh Khan’s “Pathaan” opened on Wednesday to massive celebrations, bringing back days of hooting, whistling and dancing in the aisles, in packed single and multi screen theatres across the country and also scattered protests.
Given the huge response to the film, which opened in 5,000 screens with big cities, including Delhi-NCR and Mumbai, beginning shows at 6 am and 7 am, Yash Raj Films said it had added a post midnight 12.30 am show across the country beginning tonight.
Besides, 300 more screens were added due to high demand, according to trade analyst Taran Adarsh. The film’s screen count now stands at 8,500 worldwide, he said.
The film, directed by Siddharth Anand, has been battling calls for a boycott over the song “Besharam Rang”, which features Deepika Padukone in several costume changes, including a saffron bikini.
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The success of the film, which is set for the biggest opening for any Hindi film ever, played out in a montage of fan adoration. In Kolkata, the SRK brigade feted the star by feeding chocolate cake to the movie’s poster. In Guwahati, some poured milk over “Pathaan” billboards, recalling the frenzy that normally meets a Rajinikanth film.
As security was beefed up in halls in anticipation of protests, there were many clicking selfies with giant posters and cutouts of the 56-year-old star.
Beating back boycott calls from a section of politicians and rightwing groups on social media and elsewhere, “Pathaan” could collect Rs 45 crore or more as day one collections, industry insiders said, banking on the action spectacle to pull out Bollywood from the trenches of the pandemic and a string of box-office duds.
While even early morning shows went houseful in several places, some screenings were also cancelled.
In Madhya Pradesh, for instance, morning shows were called off in some theatres in Bhopal, Indore and Gwalior with posters being torn down, noisy protests and also chants of the Hanuman Chalisa being heard outside one hall.
However, the rest of the day proceeded peacefully.
In Patna, priests of the Sant Pashupatinath Ved School held a protest against the film, which had courted controversy for hurting religious sentiments of the masses.
The release of “Pathaan”, a day before India celebrates Republic Day, gives it a five-day weekend and the expectation is that the momentum will stay. The high-octane spy thriller framed in patriotic fervour marks the return of Shah Rukh Khan the hero after “Zero” in 2018.
For many fans, the first flush of success and the initial positive response from critics echoed his famous one liner from “Om Shanti Om”: “Picture abhi baaqi hai mere dost (The film isn’t over yet).”
The Shah Rukh fandom, it seemed, was almost willing to see this film succeed.
“Zero”, his last full-fledged role, was panned. In between then and now, were three cameos, all last year — “Rocketry: The Nambi Effect”, “Laal Singh Chadha”, and “Brahmastra: Part One – Shiva”.
King Khan, said one emotive fan, is ready to reclaim his throne.
The film also stars John Abraham as the antagonist Jim.
John’s first look was received with a roar. And it became even louder when Shah Rukh appeared, complete with stubble, flowing locks and fresh-from-the-battle scars to complete the rugged look. A far cry from the dimpled, clean shaven Rahul of so many romantic films.
Videos of people dancing in the aisles to “Besharam Rang” and “Jhoome Jo Pathaan”, whistling loudly and clapping as the dialogues rolled out did the rounds of social media.
The film and its star were trending on Twitter for much of the day. #SRK, #Pathaanfirstdayfirstshow and #PathaandekhegaHindustan were some of the trending hashtags.
“It was all for Shah Rukh. I was dying to watch his film on the big screen and he didn’t disappoint. However, there were many moments when John stole SRK’s thunder. Overall, I’m very happy with the movie,” said Aparajita, a young Delhi woman who watched the 6.55 am show on what made her wake up several hours earlier on a cold January morning.
Besides the thumbs-up from the viewers, “Pathaan” also received tremendous support from industry colleagues, including filmmakers Anurag Kashyap, Raj & DK, and Bollywood star Alia Bhatt.
Kashyap, who has often spoken about collaborating with Shah Rukh in future, told reporters outside a Mumbai hall, “Shah Rukh Khan has never looked this handsome ever. I had come to watch him and I feel content. And what amazing action! I don’t think he has done something like this ever before.”
“Have always been huge fans of King Khan But this one, after his long hiatus, is uber-special. Go #Pathaan go! May you win more hearts and shatter more records @iamsrk,” tweeted Raj & DK.
Composer Vishal Dadlani, who scored the music of “Pathaan” along with Shekhar Ravjiani, termed the release day of “Pathaan” a ‘tyohaar’ (festival).
Alia said she has never been this excited for a film. “Go Pathaan,” she wrote on her Instagram Stories.
Director Anand and his wife were mobbed at a Mumbai multiplex.
Several stood in serpentine queues from the break of dawn, pouring into theatres with ticket in hand, ensuring both their entry into the cinema hall as well as the future of “Pathaan” at the box office.
Audiences in a few places garlanded posters and then there were some who bowed in front of the film’s banner sprawled outside a theatre.
Young admirers were photographed in bright yellow T-shirts with ‘Jai Hind’ and ‘Pathaan’ printed on the front, fusing fandom and the patriotic spirit. Some decorated their cars with the posters of “Pathaan” and spelt out ‘SRK’ with golden balloons.
Stories and images about the release of the film, termed ‘SRK Day’ by many on social media, came in from all parts of the country in scenes of Hindi movie madness not seen for decades.
In the heights of Ladakh, the film was screened at PictureTime Digiplex, a travelling cinema hall in Leh, the world’s highest mobile theatre installed at 11,562 feet.
PictureTime will screen four shows of the Hindi film every day at its travelling theatre as well as its three other inflatable theatres in Asifabad (Telangana), Sardarshahar (Rajasthan) and Arunachal Pradesh, according to the company.