On August 9th, Somerset House became the focal point for Bollywood. Film4, was airing a Bollywood film as a part of the Summer Season for the first time. Not only that, but it was also the premiere of Chak De India. It was the first film Somerset House has premiered and it happened to be the first Bollywood film. It was a first for many.
As it happens it was also my first premiere. I bought tickets to the film thinking it was just the film for my mother. Turns out it was a premiere with Shahrukh Khan in attendance, and this made my mother very happy. She is a big fan of SRK and was standing by the podium where he gave his speech. I am not writing to review the film because the film was fantastic. Plus it has already been reviewed. Instead, I am writing to tell you about an amazing experience.
Unlike other film premieres, this premiere was in open space in a courtyard. There were no seats, and we all had blankets. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.
Like most premieres there was the red carpet and boundary zone where the fans hoarded. Of course I wasn’t a part of this since I am claustrophobic and celebrity-phobic. It was in the courtyard of Somerset House which is the most beautiful neo-classical building I have ever seen. Shahrukh Khan did the mandatory round of signing autographs and talking to the media.
There was also a press junket which was followed by the party inside Somerset House, where SRK was waiting prior to the film’s premiere.
The entrance time to view the film was around 6 o’clock. It wasn’t packed so we got the good space. On entrance there were people serving wine. To the left of the entrance there was a bar; to the right there was a food bar which had the Indian tiffin, and guess what we got? No, wait for it.
Muffins, flapjacks, and brownies!
Anyways, at about 7 o’clock, the DJ entered. At this point we had only been speculating about SRK’s arrival since I only ordered the tickets for the film. The DJ confirmed that SRK would be opening the film at around 9:05. Great! That was two hours of my life wasted listening to bad Indian songs and the world’s most ridiculous DJ. He did nothing except stand there with his shirt buttoned down and a pair of sunglasses resting on his head.
Of course my mother turned out to be the adolescent amongst us and went up to the podium for the arrival, while I stood there and bonded with the man behind me. His wife was Sikh and has the same issues regarding Bollywood that I do.
9:05 came and went with no sign of SRK. No that’s a lie. He had been seen in the window a number of times and the fans went insane every time. It was at this point that I noticed how many non-Asians were in attendance. There were Germans, Italians and whatnot, all of whom could mouth the words to every Indian song that came on during the wait.
Finally at 9:15, when the film was supposed to start, SRK came out and said the usual rehearsed speech about being humbled and overwhelmed by the response. In his defense though, it was a sold out venue of 2000, and there wasn’t much space to move. He had a really hard time getting word in edgeways — the women in the crowd got loud and cheered (to which he responded that women have a silent strength and never get crazy).
Then at 9:30 the film began, and the whole place was electric. Dark, clear skies. Beautiful stars. 2000 people all sitting on the ground watching a very atypical Bollywood film. Of course, I would have stayed till the end but couldn’t since we had to rush to the tube station; otherwise, we would never have gotten home.
I think the best thing about the event was how multicultural it was. There are a lot of events in London that are touted as multi-cultural, and for the most part they feel forced, but this event flowed naturally which was a pleasant surprise.
So it turns out that music AND films are the universal languages that bind people together.