Bollywood comes to Rome! Shah Rukh Khan at the International Rome Film Festival 2010

Shah Rukh Khan at Rome Film Festival 2010
If Saturday was a celebration of Italian cinema with a star-studded premiere for the restored edition of Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita, with director Martin Scorsese in attendance, and Anita Ekberg, whose dip in the Trevi fountain during the movie is legendary, taking a turn up the red carpet, the big event on Sunday was the arrival of Shah Rukh Khan, the undisputed king of Bollywood! Crowds started gathering early along the red carpet, with a large contingent of the capital's Indian community there to greet “SRK”. When his car pulled up at the Auditorium Parco della Musica he was the first star of this edition to be greeted by screaming fans and crowds chanting his name – he didn't disappoint them, stopping to shake hands, pose for photographs and sign autographs along the Rome Film Festival's famously long red carpet. The organisers certainly laid on the VIP treatment too, with dancers in Indian costume lining the route and accompanying him during the photo call in the cavea.

Shah Rukh Khan was at the festival as part of the Special Events section to promote the Italian premiere of what has become the most successful Bollywood export of all time - My Name Is Khan. Prior to the screening there was an encounter with the man himself on stage in Sala Petrassi, where he participated in a relaxed question and answer session. Named by Newsweek in 2008 as one of the 50 most powerful people in the world, in person the beautifully eloquent Shah Rukh Khan comes across as surprisingly humble and enormously grateful for the successes and opportunities that have come his way. Asked about coping with life as a huge superstar he even joked that he was just a little schizophrenic and said he imagined that there were really two SRKs – the big Bollywood star called Shah Rukh Khan and another one, who is just an employee busy working for him! When he spoke about the pain of losing his parents so young and being afraid he could never love anybody as much again, only to discover the new love he now has for his own two children, his candour was disarming. Surely, the secret to Khan's popularity, is not only his undeniably charismatic presence, but a generosity of spirit and the sense one gets that he is genuinely a nice guy.

Facing a far more challenging role in My Name is Khan, than the usual romantic leading men for which he is known, Khan plays a person suffering from Asperger's syndrome and impresses with a wonderfully modulated performance, supported by a dazzling co-star, Kajol. Comparisons to Forrest Gump and other Hollywood films that have looked at autism are perhaps inevitable, but should quickly be put aside. My Name is Khan has a particular resonance in this new age – the film suggests at one point, that there are now three ages in the western world: BC, AD and 9/11 – and its message of tolerance and love is so utterly free of cynicism, that it succeeds brilliantly. As the titles rolled at the end of the film there was an extremely warm reaction from the audience and protracted applause. Put prejudice aside and go watch this heart-warming movie!

To get a taste of the event watch the video of Shah Rukh Khan in Rome below (or click here to watch on YouTube).