Two of Indian cinema's biggest stars took the red carpet in Toronto on Thursday night, thrilling South Asian film fans and sparking many to dub the city Bollywood West.
Indian megastars Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai arrived several hours late for the gala premiere of their new film Guru. B ut the estimated 1,200 fans didn't seem to mind, devotedly standing and screaming for the two actors outside Toronto's Elgin Theatre.
About 1,200 ticketholders also eagerly awaited the landmark screening inside the historic venue, joined by a gaggle of media outlets, many from India and some of whom broadcast the evening live.
Organizers billed Thursday evening's premiere as the first time a Bollywood film hasever debuted outside India.
"The Indian film industry, as you know, is the largest film industry in the world. We want to reach out to audiences overseas," Bachchan, the son of veteran Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, told reporters.
Both the producers of Guru and Toronto officials have cited the city's large South Asian community and culture of movie aficionados as reasons for the premiere.
They pointedout the massive success of a Bollywood screening and panel at last September's Toronto International Film Festival.
Guru producer Bobby Bedi also praised Toronto as one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.
Organizers have called the premiere a means to improve and encourage relations between the Indian and Canadian film industries, as well as a major step towards increasing Bollywood's profile in the North American market.
Bachchan's co-star — and according to gossip reports, girlfriend — Rai echoed this sentiment.
"It's wonderful to come here in person and actually premiere a movie, you know, mainstream," said Rai.
Theformer beauty queen, who has been called the most beautiful woman in the world, has also branched outto Hollywood features.
An epic that has been compared to Citizen Kane, Guru traces the life of apoor, young villager who eventually rises to become one of the richest, most successful business figures in the country. Bachchan stars as Gurukant Desai, with Rai playing his wife, Sujatha.
Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Mani Ratnam, with music by popular stage and screen composerA.R. Rahman, Guru opens worldwide on Friday.