As Shah Rukh Khan returns with Pathaan, fan clubs book theatres to celebrate ‘SRK festival’ amid a spectacular advance booking

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Actor Shah Rukh Khan‘s comeback vehicle Pathan has cheered up its fans and, it seems, at the box office as well. According to reports, the film has already earned more than Rs 50 crore in advance bookings in its first week. The superstar has opted for a straight action thriller Pathan and this could well be the beginning of SRK 2.0.

To understand the impact of SRK’s comeback and what it means for the disputation and its fans, we reached out to one of its fan clubs, subject matter experts and exhibitors.

Yash Paryani, 26, represents SRK Universe, one of SRK’s most active fan clubs. When asked how they are preparing for the actor’s comeback to the big screen, Yash shares: “It’s nothing short of a festival. We always celebrate his releases like a festival, and with Pathaan he’s making his big comeback after four long years so it’s extra special. We’ve missed him on the big screen and we’re going to make it a big party. We’ve scheduled screenings in over 200 cities, even Mumbai. We used to have one screening for each of his films , but this time we have six screenings. We have five screenings in New Delhi, four in Kolkata, three in Aurangabad. We also do first day shows in smaller cities like Nanded, Aurangabad, so we have huge plans. The first fan show in Mumbai is at 9am at Gaiety Galaxy in Bandra. This has never happened in over 15 years. There are places where shows start as early as 6am.”

Fan clubs play an important role in spreading the buzz and euphoria for the stars and SRK Universe is no different. “We have booked more than 50,000 tickets across India to see the first show of the first day. But we don’t just limit ourselves to that, we are going to celebrate Pathaan Day on January 26, it will be Republic Day with Pathaan followed by Pathaan Weekend. It’s not just an everyday affair, we look forward to celebrating this movie in a big way. There is a lot of excitement,” Yash shares.

SRK Universe will distribute merchandise during the screening of the film Pathaan. (Photos: Yash Paryani/ SRK Universum)

SRK universe was founded in 2013 by a Maldivian citizen Muhammad Ashraf. Yash joined the fan club in 2014. The fan club encourages SRK’s fans to experience the star’s films with more enthusiasm. “There will be the usual fanfare, we will have huge cut-outs of SRK stuck on facades of various theatres. We have designed special Pathaan themed t-shirts, mobile cases, wristbands for the fans. We wanted to pull out all the stops when it comes to Pathaan merchandise.”

Multiplexes also report enthusiastic responses at the counters. Rajender Singh Jyala, the Chief Programming Officer at INOX Leisure Ltd, says, “The fantastic booking trends for Pathaan reiterate the importance and need for quality content coming out of the Indian film industry. We are already seeing records being broken, the most important of which is the highest advancement ever for a Hindi film. We are sure that the movie would live up to the huge hype it created. The whole country is looking forward to this highly anticipated release, which is an absolutely encouraging sign not only for the cinemas but for the entire film industry. This excitement bodes well for us, and we are confident that the content lineup will support this hysteria for the foreseeable future.”

While fans rejoice at SRK’s return to the big screen, and multiplexes celebrate the massive advanced bookings, film exhibitors and single screen cinema owners are concerned as the film has faced controversy and there is a concern that cases could are vandalism.

Manoj Desai, Executive Director of G7 Multiplex, Gaiety Galaxy and Maratha Mandir in Mumbai shares, “Tomorrow there will be two morning screenings, one at Gaiety and another at Galaxy, both of the fan clubs are house full. This is the first time in the past 51 years that I have booked screenings for fan clubs.”

He shares his concerns about miscreants, saying: “Booking of other shows in all my cinemas is around 80-90%, so I see the excitement about the film among SRK fans. Boycott wali baat bhi lambi chaudi chal rahi hai so I am very worried about how it will be tomorrow and on the weekend. Until everything is settled, because there is no protection.”

What does the trade have to say about SRK’s comeback vehicle? What does the film’s performance at the box office mean for the cinema business. Girish Johar, producer and film business expert, calls the buzz and bookings “highly critical”. Johar says: “We expect a rocking start to 2023, after a few very bad years from the 2020 pandemic. Two years of Covid-19 lockdown and then a dud show in 2022, this movie will not only boost the confidence level but also the excitement back within the fraternity and the public. It hopes to get the whole system back on track, so it’s a very crucial wheel in the whole thing.”

Johar also believes that a superstar does not take breaks and their fame is never questioned, hence the film will only boost SRK’s future filmography. He says: “It’s my personal opinion, I don’t think stars take a break or a sabbatical. It’s like they want to rethink and come up with something new, close a gap or something. But that doesn’t mean his fame needs to be revived or he needs to be a new star. He’s a big star, a world star, they’re releasing the movie worldwide in over a hundred countries, which totally speaks to his stature. Yes, he’s taken a break, but as far as his energy level is concerned, we can all tell from the trailer that the action is superlative. The movie has a big star and a villain, both have a good presence on screen and then there’s Deepika Padukone, I don’t think Bollywood has anything bigger than this right now.”

Johar says Pathaan has the potential to return the film business to “normal pre-Covid-19 times”. He says: “If this film succeeds in breaking the old tradition, we can go back to normal times like 2018-2019. This proves that audiences want entertaining cinema, and SRK has used a clever strategy to promote this film. So it gives a lot of confidence to the brotherhood. Then we have other movies lined up as well, so this movie will keep audiences coming back to theaters and breaking their casual OTT viewing habit.

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