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My Name is Khan to premier at berlin

The much awaited new Indian film "My Name Is Khan" will be premiered at the 60th annual Berlin International Film Festival on Febuary 12, out of competition but very much in the limelight otherwise. MNIK is easily the most anticpated Hindi film of the year as it toplines the most popular Bombay star of all, Shah Rukh Khan (SRK), 44, who has reigned as "The King of Bollywood" for some fifteen years, reunited on screen for the first time in eight years with extremely popular actress Kajol, 35, with whom he co-starred in five box office smashes between 1992 and 2001, during which time SRK and Kajol were the hottest and most beloved screen couple in town. After that, at the peak of her career Kajol married actor Ajay Devgan and went into semi-retirement to have a child. Even while limiting her screen work to cameos and guest appearances while raising her little daughter Kajol lost none of her star lustre or fan appeal, and was still listed as number 4 of 'Top Bollywood Actresses' as recently as 2006.

Her screen reunion with Sharukh after an eight year hiatus under the direction of slick romance spectacles specialist Karan Johar, who directed their last two megahits together, "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham ..." (Happiness & Tears, 2001) and "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" (Something's happening here, 1998), is in itself suffficient reason for the high anticipation surrounding this title, but not the only reason. The subject matter which deals in part with the treatmentof Moslems in America post 9/11 is another point of interest because of its current topicality (Shahrukh is himself a Moslem and plays a Moslem in the film, whereas he normally tends to portray Hindu characters), and the fact that most of the film was shot on various locations in the States, partly on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles, is also unusual for a Bollywood film and could generate crossover energy.

Still another point of interest for SRK fans is the image change that this bankable cutesy lover-boy-with gumption star undergoes here in the role of Rizwan Khan, a Muslim from Bombay, who suffers rom Asperger syndrome (a form of high-functioning autism complicating socialization). Rizwan marries a single Hindu mother, Mandira, (Kajol) in San Francisco. After 9/11, Rizwan is detained at the L.A. airport where his disability is mistaken for "suspicious" behavior. Following his arrest, he meets Radha, a therapist who helps him deal with the situation and with his affliction. Rizwan then begins a cross country journey to meet President Obama in order to clear his name.

Reports by viewers who have already seen the film at special advance screenings are highly positive, particularly in praise S. R. Khan's acting in an offbeat role comaprable to Dustin Hoffman's in "Rain Man", and of Kajol's unabated charm and undiluted beauty after a long layoff. My Name Is Khan is set to be released in theatres in India and over 40 countries including the US, Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East on February 12,. However, the absolute world's Premiere will be held in Dhubai two days earlier. There can be little doubt that MNIK is all set to become another big triumph and megahit for Kajol and SRK in India and elsewhere in the Orient, but the big question is, will the unveiling of this film at the Berlin festival serve to finally remove the blinders from the eyes of westerners with respect to popular Indian cinema, and bring to recognition one of the most charismatic movie actors in the world today, Shah Rukh Khan. Although Shah Rukh probably has more devoted fans world wide than any two or three leading Hollywood actors combined, he is still all but unknown in the west, and far from a reconizable face. The proof of that pudding, a highly publicized incident last fall in which Mr. Khan was detained for interrogation for severl hours at Newark Airport under suspicion -- because of his obviously Muslim name and shock of unruly black hair -- of being a terrorist. Footnote: in a number of Bollywood films SRK has played either a vicitim of terrorists or a military man combatting terrorism.

Alex Deleon

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