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Indian drama scoops Bollywood honors

BANGKOK -- “Chak De India” scooped top honors at the “Bollywood Oscars,” winning nods for best film, director and actor for its look at how issues of religion, class and gender play out in national sports.

The movie tells the story of a Muslim captain of the Indian field hockey team who leaves the game after being wrongly accused of throwing a World Cup match against Pakistan.

After disappearing for seven years, he returns to coach the Indian women’s team, leading them to a World Cup victory of their own.

The script won screenwriter Jaideep Sahni an award for best story, while Shimit Amin took best director and star Shah Rukh Khan best actor.

The film was among a raft of movies showcased at the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) that broke away from the splashy musicals that have made Bollywood famous, in favor of tackling tougher issues in formats with a more global appeal.

Vivek Oberoi, who picked up a gong for best performance in a negative role for “Shootout at Lokhandwala,” said he believed the trend in India was to produce movies that could draw in international audiences.

Oberoi said Indian filmmakers are focusing on “more global concepts and ideas that reach beyond the borders of India because the viewership and the audiences have reached beyond the borders of India.”

Despite the focus on non-musicals, high-production dance numbers stole the show.

Dia Mirza donned a black halter top for a racy performance to promote her upcoming action thriller “Acid Factory,” while Oberoi and co-star Shriya Saran shone in silver for a hip-hop performance touting their thriller “Mission Istaanbul.”

Akshay Kumar donned a tiger coat as he flew onto the stage from the back of the hall on a skateboard, gliding along a wire, while turbaned dancers walked down the isles singing.

Global marketing is key element of the IIFA awards, which have been held in cities from London to South Africa’s Sun City, in hopes of attracting new audiences.

The Indian film industry was valued at 2.2 billion dollars last year, just a fraction of what Hollywood earns in a year. But that is expected to nearly double by 2012, with overseas ticket sales playing a key role.

The ceremony was broadcast live to 600 million television viewers, but few of them were actually in Thailand because the show was not carried on local television.

But hundreds of fans turned out to watch their favorite stars parade down a distinctive green carpet as they arrived at the gala late Sunday.

But some of the biggest stars of the night were shut out, including the Bachchan clan, India’s first family of film.

Former Miss World Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan, who dazzled fans in a full-length, strapless red satin fishtail gown, and her husband Abhishek Bachchan lost out for their lead roles in “Guru” — the rags-to-riches story of an Indian business tycoon.

Another hot celebrity couple, Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone, did pick up awards as the best new actors for their respective parts in “Saawariya” and “Om Shanti Om.”

Padukone’s film “Om Shanti Om,” about an intrigue that carries over into a reincarnated life, swept most of the technical awards.

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