‘Akbar’ leads Indian film awards race

'Wednesday' top contender for prizes

Helmer Ashutosh Gowariker’s epic romance “Jodhaa Akbar” is hotly favored as Bollywood comes to the casino-crazy southern Chinese enclave of Macau, which is hosting the International Indian Film Academy’s annual awards this year.

“Jodhaa Akbar,” a lavish costumed epic about the love of a Muslim Mughal king for a Hindu princess, goes head to head with “A Wednesday,” a thriller about a policeman’s attempt to stop a terror plot in Mumbai, at the IIFA’s 10th annual awards on Saturday.

The awards ceremony is being held at The Venetian Macao, a palatial 3,000-room hotel-casino launched by Las Vegas-based Sheldon Adelson in 2007. Macau is a former Portuguese colony that is now vying with Vegas to be the world’s gambling capital as backers from Nevada invest heavily there.

The three-day event, held in Bangkok last year, features the usual mix of screenings, workshops and forums, and the profile for the awards is higher this year after the Oscar success of “Slumdog Millionaire.”

The decision to hold the awards in Macau is significant as Bollywood is keen to expand its influence in the Chinese market and other parts of Asia, and the first joint Indian-Chinese production, “Chandni Chowk to China” bowed earlier this year.

Nominations were decided by a poll of members of the Indian film industry, and an Internet vote will then decide the overall winners.

“Jodhaa Akbar” was nominated in all 13 categories of the 10th IIFA Awards, including picture and director.

Other top contenders in the pic category include: “Ghajini,” a tale of an amnesiac telecoms mogul played by Aamir Khan, who is out for revenge after the death of his wife; “Dostana,” a romance set in Miami; “Race,” a thriller set in South Africa; and the music pic “Rock On!”

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