Bol­ly­wood su­per­stars daz­zle at In­dian film awards

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In­dia’s big­gest Bol­ly­wood stars led a tri­umphant cel­e­bra­tion of dance, mu­sic and fash­ion at the In­ter­na­tional In­dian Film Acad­emy awards Satur­day, cheered by thou­sands of ec­static fans just out­side New York. The five-hour show at an Amer­i­can foot­ball sta­dium in New Jersey, where the glit­ter­ing Man­hat­tan sky­line was vis­i­ble from the park­ing lot, was a riot of color, glitz and stun­ning dance rou­tines. Best pic­ture went to “Neerja,” a thriller based on the true story of a purser who helped save the lives of more than 350 pas­sen­gers when Libyan-backed hi­jack­ers stormed Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi in 1986.

The hi­jack­ers killed the purser and she posthu­mously be­came the youngest per­son to re­ceive In­dia’s high­est civil­ian award for brav­ery. “Udta Pun­jab,” a gritty crime drama spot­light­ing the huge prob­lem of drug abuse among young peo­ple in Pun­jab, scooped Shahid Kapoor best ac­tor and Alia Bhatt best ac­tress in a lead­ing role. The movie an­gered politi­cians in the state and the film­mak­ers took In­dia’s cen­sor board to court over a num­ber of cuts it tried to make. The trio of se­ri­ous­minded films win­ning ma­jor awards was rounded out by Anirud­dha Roy Chowd­hury tak­ing home the award for best di­rec­tor for “Pink,” about sex­ual vi­o­lence against women. The cul­mi­na­tion of a three-day cel­e­bra­tion of In­dian cinema, the 18th edi­tion of the awards cer­e­mony was held just out­side New York at the Amer­i­can foot­ball MetLife Sta­dium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

‘Se­duce more hearts’

The awards, which some have likened to the Os­cars of Bol­ly­wood, is In­dia’s big­gest me­dia event and one of the world’s most­watched an­nual en­ter­tain­ment shows, with an au­di­ence of nearly 800 mil­lion peo­ple. Held in a dif­fer­ent city over­seas each year to show­case what is the most pro­lific film in­dus­try in the world and the soft power of In­dia, the 2017 event comes with In­dian film on the up in North Amer­ica. From a Don­ald Trump im­per­son­ator named Ron­ald Grump, to a clos­ing song and dance rou­tine from Bol­ly­wood bad boy Sal­man Khan, which had love-struck women scream­ing in de­light, and sig­na­ture Bol­ly­wood for­ma­tion num­bers with eye-pop­ping cos­tumes ga­lore, it was a festive night.

Thou­sands of de­lighted fans, dressed to the nines in evening gowns, cock­tail dresses, saris and jewel-en­crusted shal­war kameez, shrieked with de­light, de­clared love for stars and laughed at the jokes of funny men hosts, ac­tor Saif Ali Khan and pro­ducer-di­rec­tor Karan Jo­har. There was glamor from win­ner Alia Bhatt in a crys­tal-stud­ded strap­less ball­gown and Ka­t­rina Kaif who shim­mered in a limegreen bra top, spray-on black pants and sil­ver tas­sels through an up­beat dance. Ac­tress Shilpa Shetty, who won fame for be­ing sub­jected to al­leged racist taunts and win­ning Bri­tain’s “Celebrity Big Brother” in 2007, looked stat­uesque in shim­mer­ing one-shoul­der peach lashed to the thigh.

The cer­e­mony hon­ored dou­ble-Os­car win­ner movie com­poser A.R. Rah­man and treated the au­di­ence to a snip­pet of Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tion “The Black Prince” about Queen Vic­to­ria and the Last King of Pun­jab, Ma­hara­jah Duleep Singh, which goes on re­lease in the US next week. In­dian film is grow­ing in North Amer­ica, thanks to a thriv­ing In­dian econ­omy, an in­creas­ing and af­flu­ent South Asian di­as­pora, and grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity among Afghans, Arabs, Rus­sians and Caribbean im­mi­grants.

‘Watch this film’

But if there were few non-South Asians in sight Satur­day, Bol­ly­wood he­roes walk­ing the green car­pet wel­comed the cer­e­mony as a chance to fur­ther the in­dus­try in­ter­na­tion­ally. “Many oth­ers get ex­posed to this, that way we will se­duce more hearts for In­dian films,” said Bol­ly­wood ac­tor Gulshan Grover. Sonu Sood, who stars in ac­tion-ad­ven­ture flick “Kung Fu Yoga” with Jackie Chan, said “all the ac­tors are com­ing to Bol­ly­wood to do In­dian movies and all the In­dian Bol­ly­wood ac­tors are go­ing in­ter­na­tional.”

“So I think it’s a huge change and hope­fully one day we’ll have one sin­gle in­dus­try,” Sood added. IIFA se­lected gen­der equal­ity as its cause of the year, de­spite a film in­dus­try of­ten crit­i­cized for de­pict­ing women as meek and sub­ject­ing char­ac­ters to ag­gres­sive meth­ods of woo­ing by dom­i­nant male leads. “Pink” not only won the best di­rec­tor award but also saw ac­tress Taapsee Pannu, win the IIFA woman of the year award. “The en­tire world should watch this film,” said di­rec­tor Chowd­hury. In­dia’s treat­ment of women shot to the in­ter­na­tional spot­light in late 2012 when the fa­tal gang rape of a young stu­dent in the cap­i­tal New Delhi sparked out­rage over sex­ual abuse and gen­der in­equal­ity. — AFP

Bol­ly­wood ac­tor Sal­man Khan (cen­ter) per­forms on stage.

Best Pic­ture Neerja’s di­rec­tor Ram Mad­hvani and staff ad­dress the au­di­ence on stage.

Bol­ly­wood ac­tor Sonu Sood per­forms on stage.

Bol­ly­wood ac­tor Shahid Kapoor (cen­ter) per­forms on stage dur­ing 18th In­ter­na­tional In­dian Film Acad­emy (IIFA) Fes­ti­val at the MetLife Sta­dium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on Satur­day.

Bol­ly­wood ac­tor Sal­man Khan (cen­ter) per­forms on stage.

Bol­ly­wood ac­tress Son­akshi Sinha speaks on stage.

Bol­ly­wood Ac­tress Ka­t­rina Kaif holds a tro­phy on stage.

Win­ner of Per­for­mance in a Sup­port­ing Role - Feamle, Sha­bana Azmi for “Neerja” ac­cepts the award on stage.

Win­ner of Per­for­mance in a Sup­port­ing Role - Male, Bol­ly­wood ac­tor Anu­pam Kher for “MS Dhoni” ac­cepts the award on stage.

Win­ner of Best Per­for­mance in a Lead­ing Role - Male, Shahid Kapoor for “Udta Pun­jab” ac­cepts his award.

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