S’pore fetes Indian Film Awards

'Kal' nabs eight prizes; legend Johar feted

NEW DELHI — It’s how Bollywood promotes itself internationally: Choose a big city that already boasts a large South Asian audience, fly in a colorful bunch of film stars and dance troupes from India, stage a glitzy film awards extravaganza, then party, party, party.

Last year the party was in Johannesburg. The year before, it was Malaysia’s Genting Highlands resort. This year the roulette ball stopped at Singapore.

May 20-22, citizens of one of the most orderly cities in the world — where chewing gum was recently allowed back after a 12-year absence — welcomed a noisemaking, music-blaring, color-dripping Bollywood bandwagon into town.

Popular waterfront restaurants and bars were booked for Bollywood cocktail parties, while the best-known personalities of the Hindi-lingo movie industry based in the western Indian city of Mumbai whizzed from one rowdy promotional event to another.

Among the 350 Bollywood celebrities and industry figures who blew into town was the doyen of Indian cinema, Amitabh Bachchan, as well as Preity Zinta, Kareena Kapoor, Shahid Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt.

Their three-day jamboree culminated in a riot of color and energy in the fifth Intl. Indian Film Academy Awards, on May 22.

The event at Singapore’s Indoor Stadium was attended by a raucous crowd of 5,000 — mostly ethnic Indians who make up nearly 10% of Singapore’s population — and watched on television by up to 400 million people, mainly in India.

By the end of the night, love story “Kal ho naa ho” (Tomorrow May Not Come) had won eight out of a possible 13 awards, including best picture, with Zinta picking up lead actress and Saif Ali Khan supporting actor for their roles in the film.

Science fiction film “Koi mil gaya …” (Found Someone), India’s biggest box office success for 2003, was the only movie that came close to rivaling “Kal ho naa ho.”

Rakesh Roshan won director for “Koi mil gaya” and his son Hrithik Roshan lead actor for his performance in the film.

In the emotional moment of the night, Bollywood veteran writer-director Yash Johar was honored with the outstanding contribution to Indian cinema award after a warm tribute by his son, Karan.

On the sidelines of the event, meanwhile, Oscar-winning “The Lord of the Rings” producer Barrie Osborne and crossover Bollywood director Shekhar Kapur announced they had teamed to create India’s answer to China’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

The film, tentatively titled “Water,” plans to fuse science fiction, romance, politics and Bollywood-style song and dance in a story about the use of water as a tool of oppression, Kapur told a press conference.

The film is set 15 to 20 years from now in a city of about 20 million people. Water is scarce and owned by a few people who are using it as a tool of economic and political exploitation.

Hindi and English versions of “Water,” to be shot in Mumbai, will be made using Indian actors and an international production team.