Bajirao Mastani
Courtesy of Eros International

Indian costume drama “Bajirao Mastani” pulled off a major surprise when it emerged among the front runners for the Asian Film Awards.

It received five nominations, second only to the predictable leader, Hou Hsiao Hsien’s “The Assassin,” with nine. Also collecting five nominations was “Port of Call,” a Hong Kong drama which debuted nearly a year ago.

Nominations for the tenth AFAs were unveiled Wednesday in Hong Kong. It was also revealed that celebrated Hong Kong director Johnnie To will head the jury.

The awards will be presented at a ceremony on Thursday March 18 at the Venetian hotel in Macau.

Six titles vie for the best picture award: “Mountains May Depart,” “The Assassin,” Bajirao Mastani,” Three Stories of Love,” “Mr. Six,” and Korean blockbuster “Veteran.”

Five contend for best director Jia Zhang-ke (“Mountains May Depart”,) Hou, Kore’eda Hirokazu (“Our Little Sister”,) Guan Hu (“Mr. Six’,) and “Veteran” director Ryoo Sueng-wan.

For the last couple of years the AFAs have been jointly backed by the Hong Kong, Tokyo and Busan festivals, under the banner of the Asian Film Awards Academy.

Indian films have slowly become an increasing part of the AFAs. This year five received nomination: “Bajirao,” “Masaan,” “Talvar,” “Bombay Velvet,”and “Baahubali: The Beginning.”

Organizers reported that the academy received nearly 1,600 film submissions from 32 counties, before selecting the finalists. They announced 77 nominations, spanning 36 titles from 9 territories.

New this year is an additional award for best sound. Contenders include “Monster Hunt,” “The Assassin,” “Bakuman,”, The Inerasable,” and Korea’s “assassination.”

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