Bollywood, Bollywood

Juhi sulks. Jackson loves Mahatma Gandhi. Jaffrey shoots his mouth. The Bollywood virus hits Gotham.

It was a near-sell-out-delirious crowd that bellowed and jumped on seats at the Bollywood Awards ceremony on 1 May at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island's Hampsted. Some of Bombay film industry's pin-up faces were there, including heartbreakers Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla.

Beating them all, at the stroke of the midnight hour, came the "Thriller" himself, Michael Jackson, in his South Asian avatar, clad in a Pathani suit, waving and blowing kisses with the hand that knows so well both the mike and the crotch. "Thank you, I love you all," he told the standing ovation. "I admire Mahatma Gandhi for his philosophy of non-violence and I am deeply touched by it," he added, while receiving the "Humanitarian Award" (pictured above) from S.P. Hinduja, a recent British citizen and chairman of the London-based Hinduja Group of Industries. The award was purportedly for Jackson's role in "promoting the cause of peace and understanding around the world" through his Heal The World Foundation.

The four-hour show was mostly filled with Bollywood antics. Changing costumes furiously in chameleon Bollywood fashion, Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla and Shilpa Shetty pranced around to some hit Hindi numbers (Koi Mil Gaya, Mere Mehboob Mere Sanam, Chhaiya Chhaiya). If that drove the about 17,000-crowd wild, playback singer Udit Narayan (who later was given the award for "Best Singer-Male") and his son Aditya Narayan charmed the assorted audience which included Americans, Indians, Nepalis, Sri Lankans, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis living in New York and New Jersey. (The tickets were priced at USD 25,35,50 and 100.) Towards the end, old-time Bangla crooner Runa Laila activated many a nostalgic nerve, while the stage was lit up by laser displays and fireworks. Earlier, the popular Pakistani band, Junoon, whipped up frenzy among the younger members of the crowd, who also lapped up British reggae star Apache Indian's chart busters.

For all the razzmatazz, true to Bollywood blood, there was bad blood. Not least from compere Javed Jaffrey's failed attempts at being funny. At one point, while rubbishing lyricists, he said that even the Gurkha guard at his home can aspire to be a song writer. It was a sucking moment for the sizeable number of Nepalis present in the audience, not to speak of the Nepali father-son singer duo of Udit and Aditya.

And if it's Bombay stars, someone has got to sulk. Juhi Chawla stuck to the script by not coming onstage to receive the "Most Sensational Performance-Female" award —something for which she was never nominated in the first place. Instead, the lady wept buckets in the confines of what was indicated to us was the Green Room. Sources said she was crestfallen for not being chosen the best actress as promised and being passed off as merely sensational.

Technical glitches also had a good day, the most embarrassing one occurring while Runa was performng. Having decided to lip-synch instead of singing live, she was caught . behind when her song came on even as she was announcing it. And while young Aditya was casting his spell live, the background score just refused to play along.
As for the awards themselves 23 categories of them —nominees and winners were arrived at by means of votes polled by fans across North America, through the Internet, phone calls, mail-in flyers and ticketing outlets. But, going by Juhi Chawla's sulk, the final winners may not have been chosen strictly on the strength of vote.

Mercifully, the show orgaisers—'promotion' by New York-based Kamal Dandon and 'production' by actor Anupam Kher's Radical Entertainment Company —did not leave out those striking a trail aesthetically different from the regular potboilers. So there were the "Satyajit Ray Award" (without any affiliation to the late Ray's estate) given to veteran director Yash Chopra for "consistent excellence in Indian filmmaking", and the "Pride of India Award" given to celebrity director Shekhar Kapoor, whose Elizabeth bagged seven Oscar nominations and won one.

So having taken on the capital of the world (Long Island is as good as New York City), where next for Bollywood? Why not Hollywood?

Reported by Tri Pradhan

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