Shah Rukh Khan's spy film Pathaan gets bumper Bollywood opening despite protests

Shot partly in Dubai, the movie got the second-biggest opening in the history of the Hindi film industry

Powered by automated translation

Shah Rukh Khan's spy thriller Pathaan opened to packed cinemas in India on Wednesday in one of Bollywood's top openings on record, despite protests from some religious groups over scenes they deemed obscene.

The success of Pathaan, in which Khan plays a spy fighting a militant outfit, is crucial for the Hindi film industry that has seen a spate of high-profile flops since the Covid-19 pandemic began, as Netflix and Amazon have provided varied, and much cheaper, content at home.

"It has seen a bumper opening, the second-best in Bollywood ever, even on a non-holiday, mid-week day, when audiences don't go to theatres," said Girish Johar, a producer and trade analyst who tracks box-office figures.

Film critic Taran Adarsh said Pathaan, which marks Khan's return to the big screen after four years, sold about 556,000 tickets on the first day, only behind record-setter Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, which sold 650,000 on the first day.

"Pathaan has it all: Star power, style, scale, songs, soul, substance and surprises," Adarsh said on Twitter, adding that Khan was "back with a vengeance".

Of the 5,000 screens the film was playing in, the occupancy rate was a high 65 to 75 per cent, a rarity for a film opening day, Johar said, especially as it was mid-week.

The film, which was partly filmed in Dubai, will now be shown on 8,000 screens, 2,500 of which are abroad where Khan has a strong following, Adarsh said.

Right-wing Hindu nationalist groups had in recent days protested against the film as promotional trailers showed lead heroine Deepika Padukone dancing in an orange bikini. The groups said the scenes denigrated the Hindu religion, which reveres the colour saffron as a symbol of spirituality.

"It is full of obscenities," said Hemanta Ratha, chief of Odisha political party Kalinga Sena, as dozens of its activists shouted slogans against Khan and tore down the film's posters on Wednesday. "It will have a bad impact on society."

Nevertheless, local media showed audiences dancing inside theatres, waving their mobiles phones in the air and singing along with the songs from the movie as it played.

Shah Rukh Khan thanks fans after Pathaan smashes Indian box office records

Shah Rukh Khan thanks fans after Pathaan smashes Indian box office records
Updated: January 31, 2023, 7:20 AM