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Tuesday, April 03, 2007


They came from London, Melbourne, Jakarta, Singapore, Mumbai, New Delhi and beyond to Genting Highlands. The occasion - the 10th Zee Cine Awards which drew the A list of Bollywood to Malaysia. The stars had arrived some before the fans and they were being put through the paces for what would be a show to remember. "There'll be lots of surprises," Tripta Singh of Zee Television had told me a couple of days before the show.

As I made my way to the venue appropriately called 'The Arena of Stars,' I wasn't about to doubt that. Months of work had gone into the making of this show. From the airport to the hotel counter, to the Zee Room, there was a buzz of activity all round. I wanted a quote from Lydia Fernandes, who makes all of these mega scale events happen for Zee but she was quickly shooing everyone. "I need two minutes of quiet, I need to speak to these guys." Various folks were getting their duty checklists, run through - security, red carpet, star seating, the works and then there were the intense rehearsals.

The reigning King of Bollywood Shah Rukh Khan was here practising his Don steps as was the leading actress Priyanka Chopra. She made her descent from what looked like a precarious harness, somersaulting her way mid-air. There was no stopping the heart-pumping action when she landed on terra firma, that's when the charged dance steps took over. This, as another star, Katrina Kaif, waited patiently for her turn. And it sure took a long time. That was because the man in charge, choreographer Ganesh Hegde would tolerate no misstep, no mixed up musical notes, no dancer messing his steps and no stage curtain woes. "Why is there still a gap there?" he'd boom into his mike before the word was heard again "CUT."

Lots of things happening simultaneously too. Celebrity Big Brother winner Shilpa Shetty reading through her autocue, fixing her script - "that doesn't sound right, let's try this." If there was ever an indication of how far the Indian film industry has come, it was to be seen way before the award ceremony. For far too long, the Indian film industry has been panned for its lack of professionalism. Watching Shah Rukh sweat it out, Priyanka perfecting her descent, Katrina waiting and watching, dancers going through their steps over and over again, Ganesh painstakingly spotting and fixing every minute error, the sound crew ensuring the boom was just right, the camera guys capturing every moment, everything that was happening behind the scenes was as professional as it ever gets.

At 5pm, some of the stars who clearly took entertainment seriously were still on stage sorting out all the last minute stuff. Outside the fans had packed both sides of the red carpet. "We want Shah Rukh, " we want Saif", "we want Salman", "we want Abhishek." Having stepped out of the rehearsals, I knew most of the A list wouldn't even be able to make it here. But the King did and proved why his sheer presence is still unmatched. Despite a packed schedule, he stole the limelight from the rest of the gliteratti thanks to his red carpet appearance. There was the usual crush of fans, some attempting to break through the security cordon, all in a bid to shake hands with the super star. His beefy guards did their best to keep him safe, but Shah Rukh proved yet again why he is such a hit with his fans. There were the quick hellos, the handshakes and loving all round. "We love Shah Rukh," "We love Shah Rukh," the chanting hit fever pitch as he led some of his fans into the main stadium Pied Piper like.

Once the star gazing on the red carpet was over, it was time to shift the action indoors. Things kicked off with a performance by Katrina Kaif and Salman Khan. Hosting part of the event, Karan Johar upped the ante with his own brand of humour. "You look stunning," he told Urmila Matondkar and "you don't have to return the compliment!"

Interspersed with the performances, were the awards, of which there were plenty. The main Zee Awards, the Viewers Choice Awards and the Critics Choice Awards. The critics, who often tend to differ from the mainstream, when it comes to picking the best films, seemed to mirror the minds of the audience. They picked the blockbuster Lage Raho Munnabhai - a movie that has captured the imagination of film lovers beyond India by reviving the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.

In the main awards category Hrithik Roshan took home the honours for Best Actor for his role Krrish - a movie that was partly shot in Singapore. He was laid out due to an injury, but he made up to his fans through an SMS message which in true Krrish fashion arrived slightly before the actual award was announced. Read by his father, Director Rakesh Roshan, it said "Krrish started out as an impossible dream for me and my father," though its something that would spur him onto even bigger things. Take note all you Hrithik fans, there might be something bigger than that and Dhoom 2 in the works even as I write this.

Speaking of Dhoom 2, all eyes were on Bollywood's power couple Aishwarya Rai and Abshishek Bachchan. They didn't make an appearance on the red carpet but they more than made up to their fans through their sizzling individual numbers. For those who have tracked Abhishek's steps in the past, it was impossible to miss the new found spring in his step when he performed his number from Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (KANK).

Things only got better when he edged out his father, Amitabh Bachchan by taking home the Best Supporting Actor for his role in KANK. Konkana Sen Sharma bagged the same award in the female category for Omkara, while Bollywood's darling Kajol who made her comeback with Kunal Kohli's Fanaa took home the Best Actor (Female) award. Saif Ali Khan got the nod for Best Actor in a Negative Role for Omkara, for which he thanked "Vishal Bharadwaj, who had the foresight to cast me in such a role."

While the evening seemed to be equally divided between Omakara, KANK, Krrish, taking a narrow lead towards the end of the show were Lage Raho Munnabhai and Rang de Basanti. Both films defied tried and tested formulas. As the brains behind both films explained, if you were willing to test the limits, there was an audience willing to try it out. More importantly, they spoke of working as a team, actors who improvised and even brought scripts to life. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra who got the Best Director and Best Film Awards for Rang de Basanti was quick to express his gratitude to Aamir Khan. "It has been a great year and it all started out with a beautiful script which would have remained in my drawer collecting dust if it weren't for Aamir Khan who told me to never fear."

As the drum rolls continued, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, whose name together with Raj Kumar Hirani will forever be associated with Munnabhai called it a "it a celebration of Indian cinema." And what a celebration it turned out to be.

The music, song and dance extravaganza continued as rivalries and competitions were forgotten. Singer Alka Yagnik may have her swipe at the "beedis and the hookahs," but all that was forgotten when Kuala Lumpur's twin towers appeared on stage. Shah Rukh Khan took a leap of faith and got the crowds on their feet. The Don was rocking the stage making this the perfect capper for an unforgettable night.

I know India seems to have had enough of Bollywood award ceremonies. 'Yet another award ceremony' is the constant refrain. Not so for the fans who had made it to Genting.

While South-East Asia gets its share of the single act, shows like these that bring together names like Shah Rukh, Salman, Priyanka, Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan, Katrina, Abhishek, Aishwarya, among a host of others, in one night are far and few between. In fact, the last one was the IIFA in Singapore and that was way back in May 2004.

For those who made the trip all the way from London it was all well worth it. "There's nothing like seeing the real thing," said Bank Manager Maina Patel who expectedly gave full marks to Shah Rukh. "He was the best, his appearance was simply fantastic." Her husband Sunil reserved his recognition for the choregraphers, "they stole the show by putting it together in such an innovative fashion." For 13 year old Bhavisha Khatri seeing Shilpa Shetty in action was good enough. Shetty, with her new found success added oomph to the show, not through a dance number but with her script.

The awards were remembered too and fans were glad to see some of their favourites honoured. Some would have liked KANK and Krrish to be the top films of the evening, but we all know what it takes to please all the people, all the time. My salaams to the organisers who certainly tried.

Once the show was over, the action shifted to the post party. After the star struck fans had parted company, the flashes disappeared, choreographer Ganesh Hegde who put parts of the spectacular show together took to the dance floor. He unleashed more of his foot magic and then attempted to croon the night away with DJ Aqueel. Making an appearance on the dance floor in the wee hours of the morning was actor Zayeed Khan who sizzled just like stars do when they take to the stage. No script, no choreographed steps, just DJ Aqueel's heart pumping music, Hegde's moves and the dancer in Zayeed came to the fore. For those who stayed behind, it paid to party all night.

And if you've lost track of the awards, here they are again:
BEST FILM: Lage Raho Munnabhai
BEST ACTOR: Sanjay Dutt (Lage Raho Munnabhai)
BEST ACTOR (Female): Gul Panang & Ayesha Takia (Nagesh Kukunoor's 'Dor')

BEST ACTOR (Male): Hrithik Roshan (Krrish)
BEST ACTOR (Female): Kajol (Fanaa)
BEST DIRECTOR: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (Rang de Basanti)
BEST FILM: Rang de Basanti
POWER TEAM AWARD: Shared by Rang de Basanti and Lage Raho Munnabhai - Both bagged 6 awards each
They were followed closely by:
Kriish (5 awards)
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (5 awards)
Omkara (5 awards)

(All pictures courtesy Zee TV)

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