Lisa Tsering
India-West, 933 MacArthur Blvd.
San Leandro, CA 94577
Tel. (510) 383-1146, Pgr. (510) 929-1620
United States


Michael Jackson, Shah Rukh at Uneven Bollywood Awards

By Lisa Tsering

India-West May 1999

NEW YORK — The Bollywood Awards were as unpredictable, glittering, chaotic, noisy and exhilarating as India’s entertainment industry itself, as a crowd of 17,000 filled the Nassau Coliseum May 1 for nearly five hours of music, sizzling dance, bad jokes, and Bollywood star power.

Michael Jackson showed up to collect a humanitarian award, and Shah Rukh Khan, Shekhar Kapur, Juhi Chawla, Shilpa Shetty, Anupam Kher, Pakistani chart-toppers Junoon, designers Sandy Dalal and Mary Mc-Fadden, Bangla singer Runa Laila, playback singers Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik, filmmakers Ismail Merchant, Karan Johar, Yash Johar and Yash Chopra, producer Bharat Shah and TV Asia head H.R. Shah, Broadway impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber, music director Lalit (of the Jatin-Lalit duo) and British reggae/bhangra artist Apache Indian were also on hand.

Jackson, dressed in an embroidered black Indian suit designed by Manish Malhotra (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai), accepted a special “Humanitarian Award” from London-based industrialist S.P. Hinduja for his role in promoting the cause of global peace.

“Mahatma Gandhi was always a great inspiration to me and it gives me great joy and pride to be recognized by his people,” said Jackson. Event producer Kamal Dan-dona, who described the event as “historic,” told India-West that the Bollywood Awards are now an annual event and that next year’s awards ceremony would be held May 27, 2000.

The Bollywood Awards, selected from a U.S. nationwide poll, are “our way of saying ‘Thank you’ to the Indian film industry, a vibrant and enduring link between India and non-resident Indians around the world,” said Dandona.

It was an evening of dazzling highlights marred by gaffes of varying levels of embarrassment, including the premature — and incorrect — announcement of Juhi Chawla as Best Actress for her role in Duplicate, and the inexplicable nomination of Ajay Devgan for any award except worst haircut.

But, oh, the highlights! The spectacle of seeing Shah Rukh Khan dancing to “Chaiyya Chaiyya” with the willowy Shilpa Shetty; the surprisingly heartfelt thanks from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai director Karan Johar for both best screenplay and best director awards; the impressive staging complete with fireworks and floating confetti; the playful Juhi and Shah Rukh taking turns dancing to each other’s hits, Shetty’s joy at receiving the Best Supporting Actress statuette (her eyes welled up as she said breathlessly, “Oh my God ... this is the first time I’ve held an award in my hands”), and Junoon’s premiere of their new single, “Sajna,” proved memorable.

In one of the evening’s most rewarding moments, Shekhar Kap-ur also announced that Andrew Lloyd Webber was planning a musical based on Bollywood song and dance.

Although it’s well known that Kapur is set to direct the screen adaptation of Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera,” it was a major surprise to hear that Webber, mastermind and composer of the Broadway blockbusters “Evita,” “Cats,” “Sunset Boulevard” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” had been so charmed recently after seeing a Bollywood song on video that he would mount a full-scale stage production.

Compere Javed Jaffery, an erstwhile veejay, started the evening with a dance routine and regaled the audience with one tasteless Monica Lewinsky joke after another; Jaffery’s previous U.S. appearances had better showcased his talents as a dancer and comic.

Jackson, who set worldwide records when his 1982 release, “Thriller,” sold 25 million copies worldwide, started the Heal the World Foundation in 1992 to provide medicine for children and to fight world hunger, drug and alcohol abuse and child abuse.

“I have been blessed with so much and had an opportunity to do what few others can,” Jackson said in accepting the award. “But I believe it is more than just an opportunity — it is a duty. I feel to reap and enjoy the fruits of my talents for myself would be selfish, irresponsible and unconscionable.

“In these days of such abundance and advancement in what we can do, it pains me to think we do so little for our children. In some ways I feel undeserving to receive an award for something that is my duty. I accept this award as a gesture of the courage of the people of India and as a commission to do more for mankind.”

The singer, who organizers said received no remuneration for his appearance, is currently recording a new album, and will ring in the millennium with a performance in Hawaii this New Year’s Eve.

Although organizers insisted that the winners weren’t known until the moment the envelopes were opened, it did seem strange that out of more than half of the two-dozen-plus categories, only the winners happened to be present that evening: Fardeen Khan (Best Newcomer, Male), Lalit (Best Music Director, KKHH), Udit Narayan (Best Male Singer), Alka Yagnik (Best Female Singer),Anupam Kher (Best Comedian, KKHH), Manish Malhotra (Best Costumes, KKHH), Farah Khan (Best Choreography, KKHH), Shah Rukh Khan (Best Actor, KKHH and Most Sensational Performance, Male, Dil Se), and Yash Johar (Best Film, KKHH).

The achievements of Dandona and his producing team — Wizcraft and Anupam Kher’s company, Radical Entertainment — were impressive, but a few important factors will need to be addressed if their next show is to be an unqualified success: first, the audience deserves to know how awardees are chosen (Who counted the popular votes? How many voted? What does the statuette represent?). Second, it’s regrettable that neither Udit Narayan nor Alka Yagnik were given a chance to perform a full song for their eager audiences. After coming to the stage to receive their awards, each was invited to sing a few bars for the audience, either a capella or over taped accompaniment, which is nearly an insult to artists of their caliber and a major disappointment to their fans.

Still, the show was a popular success, and members of the audience polled by India-West were unanimously enthusiastic in their praise.

The following is a partial list of winners:

Best Film: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai Best Actor: Shah Rukh Khan (KKHH) Best Actress: Kajol (KKHH) Best Director: Karan Johar (KKHH) Best Male Playback Singer: Udit Narayan (“Tum paas aye,” KKHH) Best Female Playback Singer: Alka Yagnik (“Tum paas aye,” KKHH) Best Music Directors: Jatin-Lalit (KKHH) Most Promising Newcomer, Male: Fardeen Khan (Prem Aggan) Most Promising Newcomer, Female: Preity Zinta (Dil Se) Satyajit Ray Award for Excellence and Contribution to Movies: Yash Chopra Movie Magnate Award: Bharat Shah.