Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s sports biopic “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” was the big winner at the so-called ‘Bollywood Oscars’ on Saturday night, taking home five of the top honours including best picture and best director as the Indian International Film Festival (IIFA) came to the US for the first time.
Hollywood legends Kevin Spacey and John Travolta were among the guests at the glamorous event held in Tampa, Florida.
Space and Travolta were joined by a galaxy of stars from India and around the world at the event which some local newspapers compared to the American Super Bowl given the enormous security and planning operation that went into staging the awards.
“Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,” the biographical sports drama based on the life of Milkha Singh, an Indian athlete who was a national champion runner and an Olympian, led the winners at the awards which capped four days of events and celebrations aimed at creating deeper ties between India and the United States.
Besides the awards for best picture and director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, the film won the best actor award for Farhan Akhtar whose extraordinary transformation to play the athlete was widely acclaimed.
The film, written by Prasoon Joshi, also picked up the Best Story award, Best Supporting Actress for Divya Dutt as well as a number of technical awards.
The prize for best actress went to Deepika Padukone for “Chennai Express,” and she was also named entertainer of the year.
“2013 was an amazing year for me,” Padukone said after her win. “I left home with a suitcase and a dream, and I thank my parents for allowing me to follow my dream.”
Continuing an awards industry tactic to attract high profile talent, ‘Pulp Fiction’ and ‘Grease’ star Travolta was presented with a ‘Special Award’ for ‘outstanding contribution to international cinema’.
“I believe that as human being we are alike and this is a medium to celebrate our similarities,” Travolta said.
The award for performance by an actor in a supporting role went to Aditya Roy Kapoor for “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.”
Shatrughan Sinha was honored for lifetime achievement.
The film “Aashiqui 2” scored a host of musical prizes, including those for best lyrics and best male and female singers.
Honours for newcomers were won by actor and actress Dhanush and Vani Kapoor.
The four-day event, with an expected worldwide viewership of 800 million, drew tens of thousands of visitors to Tampa area and was expected to generate about $11 million in revenue, organizers said.
– With agency inputs