To award the best and the brightest in the largest film industry in the world is a formidable task. It involves months of hard work, the deliberations of eminent jury members and the passionate opinion of viewers at large. And it all comes together at India’s most respected film awards: the Kamla Pasand 20th Annual Life Ok Screen Awards, which took place in Mumbai on January 14, showcasing the biggest Indian film stars and their work at a glittering event. It was, as they say in the trade, a blockbuster.
Shah Rukh Khan hosted the show with his trademark humour; Amitabh Bachchan received the Lifetime Achievement award with his characteristic classy understatement: the arc drawn by the two superstars was filled with luxuriantly choreographed song-and-dance numbers, comedic acts, daredevil stunts, and a parade of famous faces on the red carpet — the mix much like a good Bollywood film.
2013 was the year which had a never-before confluence of mainstream sensibilities and individual, spiky voices. Anand Gandhi’s deeply philosophical musings in Ship of Theseus found an influential backer in Kiran Rao, and the film found a wide-scale release. It also got Gandhi a Special Jury award, which the filmmaker held aloft, grinning ear-to-ear. And a Best Debutant (Female) award to Aida El-Kashef, who plays the blind photographer with sensitivity. Ritesh Batra got the Best Debutant Director award for his heartwarming The Lunchbox, which charmed Karan Johar into coming on board, and help it release.
These are the ‘small’ films that are taking Indian stories into uncharted territories. The big-budget extravaganzas continue to draw more and more people into their technicolour universe of stars and songs and dance and untrammeled emotions: 2013’s last film, Yashraj’s Dhoom 3, crossed the Rs 300 crore mark and set a new Bollywood box-office benchmark.
The Best Film went to Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s biopic on Flying Sikh Milkha Singh. Farhan Akhtar, who played Milkha with singular muscularity, ran off with the Best Actor trophy. And the young actor Japtej Singh, who played the young Milkha, got the Best Child Actor award.
When Deepika Padukone, who took away the Best Actress award (no surprises there, because her spectacular rise has been there for all to see: she has been the success story of 2013) for both Chennai Express and Goliyon Ki Raasleela: Ram-Leela, swirled on a gigantic nagaada, which rose in the air, up, up, and away, it was quite a sight. So was Sonu Sood’s zip-zap-zoom stunts on a motorcycle, as he revved up the stage and off it, circling around, as the fireworks went up in tandem. Yo Yo Honey Singh rapped, and Mika sang, and the audience sang along.
Shatrughan Sinha deserved an award himself for his speech as he presented Amitabh Bachchan the Lifetime Achievement Award. “Hamaare nyaare, pyaare Amitabh”, he said, deserved to be President. Not to be outdone, Bachchan said that he would like to return the favour (of handing out Lifetime Achievement awards) not just to Sinha, but to Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who was also on stage, and to the host, who dived for his feet!
The Ramnath Goenka Memorial award went to Madras Café, a film based on the events that unfolded during the Sri Lanka conflict, ending with the assassination of a young Indian prime minister. Bollywood’s record with real-life drama is, at best, patchy: Madras Café went bravely away from the trodden path in search of truth, the very principles that The Indian Express stands for. The film, said the chairman of the Express Group Viveck Goenka, who had instituted the award, and who presented it to director Shoojit Sircar, ticked all the right boxes.
2014 is all set to be the year that will consolidate the gains of the previous years, and set new benchmarks commercially and artistically.
We will be there, watching. And, as the immortal phrase goes, we will be back.