'Khan' bows amid Sena threats

Mumbai police presence increased, minor incidents reported

NEW DELHI -- Following enough prerelease drama to outshine any Bollywood potboiler, Fox Star Studios' "My Name Is Khan" unfurled in Indian cinemas Friday, following earlier threats by the radical political group the Shiv Sena to disrupt screenings.

Ever since the film's lead, superstar Shah Rukh Khan, voiced his opinions about Pakistani cricket players not being allowed to play in the Indian Premier League, Khan faced the wrath of the Sena, which called for a boycott of the film, leading some party workers to attack a few cinemas early this week. With the Sena demanding an apology from Khan that the actor refused, the tension escalated, leading to a fortification of Mumbai cinemas by hundreds of police and reserve personnel while authorities detained 2,000 Shiv Sena members as a precaution.

The media coverage reached a frenzy late Thursday night, with TV channels reporting that cinema chains would make a decision on whether they could play all shows on Friday after assessing the situation in the morning.

With FSS rumored to have acquired "Khan" for an estimated 1 billion rupees ($21 million), industry observers were concerned over the impact of the threats considering Maharashtra state, and especially its capital Mumbai, usually accounts for more than a quarter of a Bollywood film's revenues.

Networks Friday reported that some Sena workers attacked a suburban cinema in Mumbai but police moved swiftly to control the situation. Similarly, reports came in that a cinema was attacked late Thursday in Delhi while cinemas in the western state of Gujarat were holding off plans to open the film Friday. While some single-screen cinemas in Mumbai still didn't play the film, by Friday afternoon reports were coming in that multiplexes were beginning to run shows as scheduled. In a move to boost public confidence, Maharashtra's home minister R R Patil also attended a screening at a Mumbai multiplex.

"The film has received a rocking opening with full occupancy wherever its opened, not just in Mumbai, but across the country. Moreover, the reviews that have come in today are very positive indicating that the film has been welcomed by everybody," Fox Star Studios India CEO Vijay Singh told THR in an interview.

The film revolves around the impact of the 9/11 terror attacks on a San Francisco-based Indian Muslim (Khan) suffering from a kind of autism, who embarks on a cross-country journey across the U.S. "Khan" is FSSI's first mainstream Bollywood release after the success of "Slumdog Millionaire."

Instead of a red carpet premiere in Mumbai, "Khan" premiered in Abu Dhabi Wednesday graced by director Karan Johar and Khan, with the talent heading to Berlin for a screening at the ongoing Berlin International Film Festival.

In a tweet Friday, Khan thanked his fans stating, "Lov u (sic) all so much... I am humbled by this show of love & kindness....I love Mumbai & once again reiterate I sincerely from the bottom of heart regret having hurt so many. Only regret our own city Mumbai is still to see it in full flow. I just want to tell everyone that I feel more patriotic than ever before."

Similarly, Johar also tweeted that he was "overwhelmed and moved to tears with all the support our labour of love is getting."

While "Elizabeth" director Shekhar Kapur was still to see the film, he wrote on his blog Friday that he had seen the trailers "and sensed that I was watching a very mature performance from Shah Rukh Khan. I sensed that after 'Monsoon Wedding' this may be another film that actually crosses over internationally."

"Khan" is being released worldwide by Fox International and by Fox Searchlight in North America.