South­ern sur­prise

We pre­view the sixth edi­tion of the South In­dian In­ter­na­tional Movie Awards, which is tak­ing place this week­end in Abu Dhabi

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This week­end, more than 600 film crew and celebri­ties from four south­ern In­dian states – Tamil Nadu, Ker­ala, Kar­nataka and Andhra Pradesh – will de­scend on Abu Dhabi for the sixth edi­tion of the South In­dian In­ter­na­tional Movie Awards (Si­ima). The sheer scale of the en­ter­prise is mind-bog­gling: four in­de­pen­dent film in­dus­tries will hon­our ac­tors, direc­tors, singers and mu­si­cians across a range of cat­e­gories on Fri­day and Satur­day at the Abu Dhabi Na­tional Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­tre.

Adusumilli Brinda Prasad, chair­per­son of Si­ima, says choos­ing the UAE cap­i­tal to host the glit­ter­ing two-day event was an easy de­ci­sion to make.

“The proac­tive ap­proach of Tourism and Cul­ture Abu Dhabi made our job easy when it came to se­lect­ing this city from a group of other in­ter­ested me­trop­o­lises,” she says, point­ing out that past venues have al­ways been cities boast­ing a large In­dian di­as­pora, with the UAE fig­ur­ing three times al­ready: the pre­vi­ous hosts have been Kuala Lumpur, Sin­ga­pore, Shar­jah and Dubai, which has hosted the event twice.

Starry nights

Prasad prom­ises that the red car­pet in Abu Dhabi will be throng­ing with A- lis­ters. Top nom­i­na­tions in­clude vet­eran ac­tor Mo­han­lal from Ker­ala, who is fre­quently spot­ted in Dubai – he is said to own a home in Ara­bian Ranches and an apart­ment in the Burj Khal­ifa. Mo­han­lal is up for a Sup­port­ing Ac­tor Award for his role in the Tel­ugu crime drama Janatha Garage ( one of eight nom­i­na­tions the film has re­ceived).

Tamil favourites in­clude ac­tress Tr­isha, who is short­listed for Best Ac­tor in a Neg­a­tive Role for the film Kodi, and Vijay, an award-win­ning star and strong favourite for best ac­tor. His film Theri is up for four other awards, too, in­clud­ing Best Direc­tor (Atlee Ku­mar) and Best Film.

Young heart­throb Rak­shit Shetty is nom­i­nated for Best Ac­tor for his star­ring turn in the Kan­nada-lan­guage Kirik Party (12 nom­i­na­tions, in­clud­ing Best Film and Best Direc­tor for Rishab Shetty), while Tel­ugu star Rakul Preet is on the list for best ac­tress for the film Nan­naku Pre­matho. Malay­alam film Ma­hesh­inte Prathikaram, star­ring Fa­hadh Faasil ( who is also up for Best Ac­tor), leads the Ker­ala nom­i­na­tions with 11 nods, fol­lowed by Nivin Pauly’s Ac­tion Hero Biju (eight).

One life­time achieve­ment award will be pre­sented, to S P Bala­sub­rah­manyam, the pro­lific Kar­nataka-born mu­si­cian, singer, pro­ducer and ac­tor, who has five Best Singer Na­tional awards to his name, and a Guin­ness World Record for the most num­ber of songs.

Move over, Bol­ly­wood

De­spite the fan­fare sur­round­ing south­ern movie-award cer­e­monies, Bol­ly­wood has al­ways been the face of In­dian cin­ema abroad. Its glit­terati, from Priyanka Cho­pra and Amitabh Bachchan to Irrfan Khan and Anil Kapoor, are ver­i­ta­ble am­bas­sadors who com­mand much Ad­nec is set to re­sound with thump­ing dance se­quences set to pop­u­lar tracks, all led by top artists of the in­ter­na­tional lime­light, as well as box-of­fice tak­ings, world­wide. It was with this im­bal­ance in mind that Si­ima was launched in 2012, bring­ing to­gether all four south­ern film in­dus­tries in a bid to take on the for­mi­da­ble Bol­ly­wood jug­ger­naut.

Be­sides pro­duc­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally ac­claimed tal­ent such as the dou­ble- Os­car- win­ning mu­sic direc­tor A R Rah­man, south­ern cin­ema is slowly gain­ing new, ap­pre­cia­tive au­di­ences in north­ern In­dia, which has long been a Bol­ly­wood strong­hold. A good ex­am­ple is the ex­trav­a­gantly pro­duced Tel­ugu pe­riod films Baahubali: The Be­gin­ning and Baahubali 2: The Con­clu­sion. The se- quel was re­leased in cin­e­mas in April, which means it misses out on Si­ima’s 2017 nom­i­na­tions, but it has since made nearly 17 bil­lion ru­pees (Dh966 mil­lion) in the sub­con­ti­nent and around the world, and is still play­ing in In­dian cin­e­mas. The first film won Best Film in the Tel­ugu cat­e­gory at Si­ima 2016, sev­eral Film­fare and IIFA Ut­sam gongs, and a na­tional award. It also broke the record for high­est-gross­ing In­dian movie of all time, sail­ing past the pre­vi­ous record breaker, the 2014 Bol­ly­wood film PK. The achieve­ment was sig­nif­i­cant, con­sid­er­ing that PK’s stel­lar cast was led by Aamir Khan, one of Bol­ly­wood’s most-loved and pow­er­ful tri­fecta of ac­tors (the other two be­ing Shah Rukh Khan and Sal­man Khan).

De­lighted by the un­prece­dented suc­cess of the Baahubali films, south­ern In­dian fans im­me­di­ately be­gan trolling their Bol­ly­wood coun­ter­parts and even ac­tors on so­cial-me­dia plat­forms point­ing out the dozens of Hindi films that are cookie-cut­ter re­makes of south­ern In­dian movies.

There is per­haps no big­ger fan of south­ern In­dian cin­ema than Sal­man Khan. “Sallu Bhai”, as the ac­tor is af­fec­tion­ately known, has pro­duced and starred in a string of Hindi block­busters – among them Wanted ( 2008), Body­guard ( 2011) and Kick (2014) – that are re­makes of Tel­ugu, Tamil or Malay­alam movies. He is not the only one guilty of tak­ing the easy road. Sev­eral other Bol­ly­wood heavy­weights have also starred in Hindi ver­sions of south­ern In­dian movies, in­clud­ing Ak­shay Ku­mar and Amitabh Bachchan.

An Abu Dhabi af­fair

Go­ing by past Si­ima in­stal­ments, espe­cially last year’s colour­ful Dubai edi­tion, Ad­nec is set to re­sound with thump­ing dance se­quences set to pop­u­lar tracks, all led by top artists, such as Pooja Hegde, Han­sika, Shriya Saran and in­domitable songstress Usha Uthup. Fans are also hop­ing that Rana Dag­gu­bati will be among those tak­ing to the stage. The ac­tor is no stranger to Abu Dhabi – he was here in 2014, along­side Bol­ly­wood ac­tion hero Ak­shay Ku­mar, for the film­ing of the thriller Baby.

Prepa­ra­tions for the big week­end will soon be un­der­way, with Si­ima staff and mem­bers of the crew sched­uled to fly into Abu Dhabi a few days be­fore­hand. Prasad says the team hope to spend some time ex­plor­ing the city, so fans can ex­pect to see their favourite stars in and around all the pop­u­lar land­marks – Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Fer­rari World Abu Dhabi and Yas Mall.

“The crew will ar­rive four days be­fore the event, while the stars will come in start­ing to­day,” says Prasad.

“It will be a three-day stay and they will cover some of the best spots in Abu Dhabi as part of their sight­see­ing plans.”

Cour­tesy Si­ima

Cour­tesy Si­ima

Han­sika Mot­wani per­forms at Si­ima Awards in Shar­jah in 2013. On the cover, from left, Kriti Khar­banda, Pranitha Sub­hash and Charmy Kaur at Si­ima 2015 in Dubai

Cour­tesy Si­ima

Shruti Haasan at the 2015 Si­ima awards in Dubai.

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