Sunday, 4 May 2014

IFFM Awards Night @ Princess Theatre 2 May 2014

Looking out over a packed house at Melbourne's Princess Theatre Friday night, John Molloy, co-director of the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, described a challenge issued by Simi Garewal at the conclusion of last year's IFFM. Simi, who's worn many hats during her 50-year-career in Indian film and TV and is a member of the IFFM's advisory board, acknowledged the growth of the festival but wanted to know, in effect, 'Now what?' John let it slip to being "terrified" of the elegant 'Lady in White' but understood that the festival did, in fact, need to take another big step. But how? Where to? What was next?

Those of us in attendance at the inaugural Indian Film Festival of Melbourne Awards Night knew exactly what Simi's challenge wrought: A rousing evening that paid tribute to the best of Bollywood and Melbourne's vibrant Indian culture.

And gave grown men and women a chance to holler for attention at the always dignified Amitabh Bachchan . (More on that in a future blog post.)

Here's a chronological look at the night's highlights:

Aradhna and I had seats in the middle of the 4th row, which put us 3 rows behind Mr Bachchan and in the middle of pre-show hubbub. Going clockwise: Festival Director Mitu Bhowmick Lange greeting VIPs; an unintentional yet strangely appropriate shot of Mr Bachchan entering the theatre via a side door; a Christian Dior-attired Kangana Ranaut standing beside a seated Ted Baillieu (former Victorian premier); Mr Bachchan taking his seat in the dark to thunderous shouting and applause; women looking radiant in saris; the view of Mr Bachchan from my seat.

After a bit of comedy from MC Jehan Ratnatunga, Raina Devi Sundaram and Govind Pillai of Karma Dance made traditional Indian dance look like an Olympic event.

Festival Director Mitu Bhowmick Lange.

Short film competition judges Vijay Acharya and Paul Cox. Vijay had announced the winners, Abhishek Verma's 'Chasni' and Don Percy's 'Makeover' at a morning press conference. Cox prefaced his remarks by saying tongue in cheek that he'd just returned from filming in the subcontinent and that it "feels like India is taking over the world." He also said Indian cinema "makes you believe in film again." Amen, Mr Cox.

Director Don Percy accepts his award for 'Makeover' from Monica Khanna of Western Union, sponsor of the short film competition. 'Chasni' director Abhishek Verma is based in India and couldn't accept his award in person.

Alistair Park of IFFM sponsor Telstra (he's the -- surprise! -- tall white guy in this photo) presents 'Dhoom 3' producers Vijay Acharya, Avtar Panesar and their colleagues with the People's Choice Award for highest grossing Indian film in Australia for 2013. Dhoom 3 earned $1.7 million.

In what was a recurring theme of the evening, Vijay Acharya addressed Mr Bachchan directly while accepting his award. He referred to Big B as the "original Vijay", and said the Indian cinema legend is the reason he chose a career in film.

Melbourne's Bombay Royale provided funky and exceptionally fashionable entertainment.

Introducing the awards portion of the night, festival co-director John Molloy describes the upside to being terrified by Simi Garewal.

Director Ritesh Batra accepts Best Indie Film award for 'The Lunch Box'.

Class act Farhan Akhtar, who won Best Actor for his superhuman (literally -- take a look at the guy's torso) performance in 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag', sent a video acceptance speech.

Kangana Ranaut takes the stage after winning Best Actress for 'Queen'.

The camera loves Kangana.

Kangana presents Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra with a Best Director award for 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag'.

Not surprisingly, 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag' captured Best Film, too.

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra had every right to give the night's longest speeches: he'd flown from the IIFA Awards in Tampa, Florida to accept his awards for 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag' and had to leave immediately for India afterwards. In my opinion, that reflects the personal connection Mitu's made with the Indian cinema community.

Love this photo of Mitu watching from the wings.

A dance troupe from Shiamak gave a performance especially designed for Mr Bachchan. He later said he was glad dancers like this weren't around when he was a young man -- he didn't think he could mimic their hip movements.

Simi Garewal asked "How do you dissect a legend?" at the start of her introduction of Amitabh Bachchan and was rewarded with a roar when she admitted, "When he's on screen I can't look at anyone else." Simi nearly brought the house down when she concluded by saying, "There are actors. There are stars. And there is Amitabh Bachchan!"

Mr Bachchan strides to the podium.

He accepts International Screen Icon Award from Victorian parliament member Heidi Victoria.

As he did at the night before prior to a screening of 'Sholay 3D', Mr Bachchan recited a dialogue from 'Kabhi Kabhie' (see video below).

Mitu explained how she'd experienced the best morning of her life when LaTrobe University presented an Indian student with an annual scholarship worth $200K in Mr Bachchan's honour.

Even in shadows, Mr Bachchan looms large.

Realising everyone in the room was lusting for a photo with Big B, Mitu gathered everyone back on stage and had photographers take shots with the crowd in the background.

A man of such dignity shouldn't be bombarded by shouts from boorish 'fans' seeking his attention.

Mr Bachchan taking a selfie.

Check out Ritesh Batra snapping Mr Bachchan's photo.

Bombay Royale closed out the night in style.

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