Bollywood demigod Khan casts spell on Moroccans

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In its 12th edition, the festival which runs until December 8 in this ochre city, is presenting a “special tribute” to Indian cinema as it celebrates its centenary.

“I am pleased to present the star, the icon, the demigod of Indian cinema, Shah Rukh Khan,” said an organizer as the arrival of the star sparked a roar from young fans, who braved gloomy and cold weather to catch a glimpse of him.

Khan, who acted in some 80 films, was specially invited for the festival in Morocco, where Bollywood films rank alongside Egyptian movies in popularity.

A true showman, he warmed up the atmosphere with more than half-an-hour song and dance performance on stage that had the crowds screaming in appreciation.

Later festival organizers screened a preview of “Jab Tak Hain Jaan,” directed by legendary Bollywood filmmaker Yash Chopra who died in October in Mumbai, the home of India’s Hindi-language movie industry, after more than five decades of movie career.

Khan had acted in several box-office hit movies produced and directed by Chopra such as “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge” (Bravehearts Will Take The Bride Away), “Dil To Paagal Hai” (Heart Is Crazy) and “Daar” (Fear).

He has also taken lead roles in other blockbusters such as “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” (Something Is Happening) and “Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham” (Sometimes Joy, Sometimes Sorrow) directed by another popular Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar.

“This is the first time I am seeing Shah Rukh Khan. This is a dream. He was two feet away from me. He is so simple and modest,” Khadija Ariba, a young student, told AFP.

“I know all his films. They talk of love, injustice, humanity... things that we speak of. He is the prince of most girls.”

For many fans it was an “unforgettable” experience at Jamaa El Fna.

“We watch movies on satellite channels and some movie theatres. But to be present here on Jamaa El Fna is unforgettable for me,” said Ouadie El Ouwad.

Ranked in 2001 as part of the World Heritage List by UNESCO, Jamaa El Fna -- site of the April 28, 2011 bombing that killed 17 people -- was teeming with joyful fans -- mostly students and employees -- who cheered Khan.

“I left my workplace at 5 pm to see Shah Rukh Khan from close, but once here the place was already packed with people,” said Ahmed, 32, a carpenter.

“What I like most are his songs. And I have a friend, who speaks very good Hindi which he learned by watching his movies,” he said as he straddled his motorcycle.

Fifteen films are in the race for the top prize at the festival, including “Touch of the Light” by Taiwanese Chang Jung-Chi, “The Attack” by French-Lebanese Ziad Doueiri and “Like a Lion” by Samuel Collardey of France.

The festival’s jury comprises of Canadian Marie-Josee Croze, American James Gray, Moroccan Jillali Ferhati and French Lambert Wilson.

On Friday the festival kicked off with a special ovation for French actress Isabelle Huppert.

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