India’s Dutch treat

Cross-cultural 'Veer-Zaara' sweeps awards

AMSTERDAM — “Veer-Zaara,” Bollywood veteran lenser Yash Chopra’s tale of star-crossed lovers, swept the Intl. Indian Film Academy awards ceremony, picking up six awards, including best pic, at a star-studded ceremony Saturday.

Tale of the love between an Indian army officer and a Pakistani woman also took home awards for direction, actor, supporting actress, musical direction and story.

“Veer-Zaara” was the first film in seven years from the 72-year-old Chopra, who began directing in 1959. Many of his films are considered landmarks in Indian film history, but Chopra told the crowd the award for “Veer-Zaara” would be his last for directing.

Pic’s award-winning actor Shahrukh Khan arrived in a horse-drawn carriage to host the ceremony, held in the Amsterdam Arena, a massive soccer stadium.

Rani Mukherji was a double winner, taking the actress prize for “Hum Tum” (“Me-You”), a pic lensed partly in Amsterdam, and supporting actress for “Veer-Zaara.” Abhishek Bachchan upstaged his dad, Indian film and TV superstar Amitabh Bachchan, by winning supporting actor for “Yuva.”

The 63-year-old senior Bachchan, who arrived onstage on a bicycle, told the crowd that the Indian film industry was at the forefront of a communications revolution that was waking up the world to “our rich talent.”

The awards, launched six years ago, have been regularly held outside of India in efforts to promote the country’s film industry, which churns out some 800 to 1,200 films annually.

The Netherlands has an Indian film fan base of some 500,000, about half from the Hindu community that migrated from the former Dutch colony of Suriname.

The audience of some 10,000, many sari-clad despite unseasonably brisk June weather, were entertained by Amitabh Bachchan dancing with his son and Aishwarya Rai. Some 400 leading Bollywood thesps, producers and directors flew in for the event.

Actress Shabana Azmi and cinematographer VK Murthy picked up lifetime achievement awards.

(Tim Groot contributed to this report.)

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