Khan packs them in - but only just

After months of waiting, film fans finally get to see My Name Is Khan - but the print almost didn't make it to movie theatres in time.

There was suspense, tension and finally a happy ending for hundreds of Bollywood fans gathered at the National Cinema in Abu Dhabi yesterday to see the film My Name is Khan - and that was before they even watched it.

The print of the much-anticipated film was late in arriving, and at one point it looked as if the theatre, which shows only Bollywood movies and is the venue of choice for fans of Hindi cinema, would not be able to screen it until today. Before the first show at 4.30pm, an employee at the ticket booth was advising filmgoers to check back at 5pm because he was not sure when the print would arrive from Dubai.

In the end, it reached the theatre with just 90 minutes to spare. According to Empire International, the film's distributor, the delay was due to getting the film subtitled. "This is the biggest Hindi release ever," said Kifah Ghraizi, the head of the company's Gulf sales. "We are releasing 35 prints across the UAE; the subtitles went to three different labs. It took a bit of time." My Name is Khan, which had its international premiere at the Emirates Palace hotel on Wednesday night, marks the reunion of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, two major Bollywood stars with notable on-screen chemistry. The film depicts the Islamaphobia faced by American Muslims after the September 11 terrorist attacks, and was run uncut and subtitled in English and Arabic.

Many fans at the cinema had been anticipating the film's release for months and had made special arrangements to mark the occasion. "I have given this film a 10 out of 10 without even seeing it," said Cindy Gonzales, a customer service employee in Abu Dhabi, while waiting to see the film at National Cinema. "I phoned the Emirates Palace three times and offered money to watch the premiere with Shah Rukh Khan there, but it was invite-only." Her efforts to watch the movie with its star thwarted, she bought tickets several days in advance to ensure she and her friends would be among the first to see it at the cinema.

A snack vendor at the National, who gave his name as Shahdad, said it was much busier than normal. A number of the film's nine daily screenings had sold out, while others had only a few seats left at the front, he said. Filmgoers who watched the film at Khalidiya Mall were not disappointed. "I cried about five times," said Aisha al Blouki, a 26-year-old Emirati. "I really liked the dramatic plot and Shah Rukh Khan is my favourite actor."

Her sister, Raebe, said she was touched by the political message. "And it also made me proud that the premiere was here. I would watch it again. I liked the story, everything," she said. "This movie was made for Shah Rukh Khan," said Afzal Qureshi, a businessman. "There is a good message, that we should learn to forget the past." Ali Haider and Naveed Malik, both 29-year-old engineers from Pakistan who live in Abu Dhabi, took a day off work to see the film. They said they had heard about it three months ago and had read up on the plot.

"There is a myth that if Shah Rukh Khan physically runs in the movie, it will become a hit, so we will see if he runs in this one," Mr Malik joked before entering the theatre. "It's very important that SRK and Kajol are together again," Mr Haider said. "Movies should be light entertainment but I can see from the poster this will be about the post-9/11 incident. Me and my friend have been very eager to watch this movie together."