December 19, 2008 / 9:28 AM / 10 years ago

Mumbai crowds flow back to their beloved Bollywood

MUMBAI (Reuters) - After a fortnight of playing to near empty cinemas, Bollywood is breathing a sigh of relief as a new Shah Rukh Khan film pulls in audiences in a city still recovering from November’s deadly attacks.

Bollywood actress Anushka Sharma (R) kisses Shah Rukh Khan during a promotional event for their movie 'Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi' (God made the couple) in Mumbai December 18, 2008. The movie is directed by Aditya Chopra and was released on December 12, 2008. Picture taken December 18, 2008. REUTERS/Manav Manglani

Cinema audiences in movie-mad Mumbai fell to a trickle in the aftermath of last month’s terror attacks in which 179 people were killed.

“People were so scared and the mood was so low that watching a movie at a theater was out of the question,” said industry analyst Amod Mehra.

“In the last two weeks, theatres have been running empty, more so in Mumbai, but also in the rest of the country.”

But Khan, Bollywood’s most bankable star, has worked his magic at the box-office.

In his new romantic comedy, he plays a boring introvert who gets a makeover, turning into a snazzy dancer to woo his wife.

Reviews for “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi” (A Couple Matched by God) have been far from glowing but that hasn’t stopped audiences from flocking to cinemas to see the 43-year-old Khan in action.

“Our theatres were full at around 60 per cent on Friday and then went up to around 85 per cent over the weekend,” said Shonali Shroff of Fame Cinemas.

Industry experts said even Khan would have been hard-pressed to save the film if it had opened two weeks earlier.

Coupled with the global financial crisis, the attacks came at a bad time for Bollywood.

Several productions had already been shelved, marketing budgets slashed and stars were asked to renegotiate pay packages.

But the success of “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi” has encouraged film producers.

The next feel-good flick is expected to be “Jumbo,” an animated movie dubbed by some of Bollywood’s biggest names.

The movie about a baby elephant will be released on Christmas day by businessman Shailendra Singh’s Percept Picture Company.

“It’s the festive season and a time for fresh beginnings,” Singh said.

“Let’s hope it heralds good things for the industry.”

Writing by Tony Tharakan; Editing by Gillian Murdoch

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