The Rediff US Special/Som Chivukula
"Namaskar! Aap kaise hai?" asked a beaming Steven Seagal, one of the guests at the third Bollywood Awards.
"Thank you all for loving the spirituality that feeds art and culture," continued the actor, better known for his violent films such as Above The Law and Fire Down Below.
Seagal, whose career was suddenly revived a few weeks ago with the medium range success of Exit Wounds, is also known for his passion for Zen Buddhism and India.
"India is probably my favorite country," he continued. "I have always tried in my heart to help India and I admire it for helping Tibetan refugees."
Seagal was one of the many stars and filmmakers who made it to the third Bollywood Awards held at Nassau Coliseum at Long Island, New York, on Saturday. An estimated 10,000 people attended the event.
Seagal later sang and played the tabla with percussionist Sivamani.
The awards ceremony itself was dominated by the Rakesh Roshan family. Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai was the best film of the year. And Hrithik, who sent a taped message, was the best actor. His uncle Rajesh Roshan got the best composer nod.
In all, there were over 25 awards.
From the younger generation, there were Bollywood stars Karisma Kapoor (fans' choice for best actress) and Tabu (critics' choice for best actress).
Dev Anand, who hasn't made a successful film in over 15 years, was nevertheless remembered for the scintillating films his banner Navketan made in the 1950s and 1960s. They include the romantic hits Taxi Driver , Nau Do Gyarah and the more serious Guide.
Clad in a red suit, the 78-year-old thespian, whose latest film Censor was released about a month ago, walked up briskly to accept the lifetime achievement award.
"I feel your love in my heart when I act, direct and produce," he declared. "I have tremendous love for New York, New Yorkers and the spirit of New York."
The Pride of India Award went to Ashok Amritraj, who had produced a handful of films including Jeans in India, and has made over two dozen films in Hollywood, including the upcoming Bruce Willis starrer, Bandits.
"We are in your debt for the job you have done," Amritraj said, referring to the contribution of NRIs. "You have accepted our films and made us feel welcome."
There was also an award for humanitarian work. And it went to stage and movie actor Anupam Kher for helping provide shelter for indigent children.
"When I started my career over 20 years ago, I was lost in the race to find fame and fortune," he said. "Then, several years later, as I stopped at a red light (in Bombay), a young boy put his face against the window of my car asking for money. After 10 seconds, he fell down. It was then I realized there is more to success than acting."
The Bollywood Awards are significant for a number of reasons, Kamal Dandona, organizer of the event, said. For one, it attracted audiences and talent from the subcontinent. One of the highlights of the evening was a classical dance by Pakistani artist Reena. And Pakistani pop singer Sajjad Ali, who performed twice, was a hit, too.
Aditya Biswajit from Bangladesh lip-synced two songs but managed to get good amount of applause.
Mehmood, one of India's most popular comedians, whose career and health declined dramatically two decades ago, stepped on to the stage, along with his doctor, to present the best singer award to his son, Lucky Ali.
"My father Mumtaz Ali was a famous actor," said Mehmood, who played comedian in over 200 films including Pyaar Kiye Jaa. But Ali's career too hit a low point. "When I found fame and fortune," Mehmood continued, "people used to point at him and say, "there goes Mehmood's father."
"Today, history repeats itself," he continued. "My son Lucky Ali is in the same category."
The evening had many entertaining moments. And many mishaps.
Akshay Kumar, who had performed a vigorous bhangra item with singer Sukhbir, was a no show when he was invited to the stage to accept the best supporting actor statuette for his work in Hera Pheri.
A few minutes later, his wife Twinkle Khanna declared, "The award for the best costume goes to... Sorry, it was meant for best cinematography."
The skit involving emcee Ruby Bhatia and best villain award winner Gulshan Grover was ill-conceived. Grover said he liked playing the villain because he got to rape women. But the villain is not really a bad person, he quipped. For it is after the villain's death that the hero and heroine in the film come together.
As many in the audience gasped at the ill-conceived humor, Bhatia shot back: "Behave yourself."
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