Sept 8 (CNN) – Jubilant movie fans thronged Indian cinemas before the crack of dawn on Thursday, bursting fire crackers and dancing on the street to welcome the latest release by one of the country’s biggest stars.
Some screenings began at 5 a.m. as die-hard fans of Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan packed into theaters to see the nationwide premiere of “Jawan,” his latest Hindi-language action thriller.
Videos and photos posted on social media showed thousands of fans waiting in line outside cinemas across India, chanting slogans and cheering for Khan, and then dancing in crowded cinema halls as they watched the highly anticipated movie.
In a social media post, Khan thanked his fans and said he stayed up late to watch the commotion unfold.
“Love u boys and girls I hope u enjoy the entertainment,” Khan posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Kept awake to see u go to the theater. Big love and thanks.”
Produced by Khan’s wife, Gauri Khan, and directed by prominent South Indian filmmaker Atlee, “Jawan,” which means soldier, is expected to smash box office earnings, already raking in about $6 million worldwide in advance bookings, according to local media reports.
The film is the second for the actor this year, following a four-year hiatus from the screen. Also known as “King Khan” and the “King of Bollywood,” he has achieved a demigod status in India, starring in more than 90 movies and earning multiple accolades.
From his humble beginnings to early career struggles, Khan’s story has resonated with millions of his fans, leaving an indelible legacy on Indian culture.
But he told CNN in a 2008 interview that he was never interested in switching to movies; it was one of his most defining – and tragic – moments that forced him to take the plunge.
“My parents died early so I was sad in Delhi. I said to myself: OK, come [to India’s movie capital Mumbai] for a change of scene,” he said. “I was never trying to be a movie star, I became one by chance.”
Khan won hearts with the 1995 hit “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge” – which translates to “The Big-Hearted Will Take the Bride” – playing Raj, the son of a wealthy widowed industrialist, who falls in love with Simran, the sweet and obedient daughter of a traditional father who has her marriage arranged to another man.
It’s a love story so inspiring that it continues to play daily in a Mumbai cinema nearly three decades later.
His portrayal of the ideal romantic hero, not afraid to weep and confess his love on the screen, was a departure from the traditional concept of Indian masculinity.
He profited from the success of “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge,” teaming up with some of Bollywood’s best-known directors and production houses in the years that followed.
Khan received the Padma Shri award, India’s fourth highest civilian honor in 2005, and a spot on Time magazine’s 100 most influential list this year.
He returned to the limelight this year with “Pathaan,” breaking almost every Bollywood earnings record. The film took $130 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing Indian film of 2023 so far, according to Box Office Mojo, which tracks film earnings, and the second-highest-grossing Hindi film ever.