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Culture Connection

The inaugural edition of the SAIFTA brought together talent from India and South Africa

Well before his car pulled up outside the entrance to the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Durban,South Africa,the crowd had started to chant Ranveer Singh’s name. The excitement soared when he stopped on his way in to greet the fans who had queued up outside. But before he could greet the media,Singh’s voice was drowned by further cheering,this time for Priyanka Chopra.

The locals — people of Indian origin form a large part of the population — had started to queue up at the Bram Fischer Road outside the venue over an hour before Indian film and television celebrities walked the red carpet at the South Africa India Film and Television Awards (SAIFTA) that took place in Durban on September 6. As everyone from Madhuri Dixit-Nene,John Abraham and Abhay Deol to Manish Paul,Karan Wahi and Mona Singh walked the red carpet,the fans showed how much they love both Bollywood as well as Indian television stars.

The event,in its first edition,is a strategic tie-up between the tourism department of South African province KwaZulu-Natal and a private Indian events agency Celebrity Locker. It is aimed at strengthening ties between and celebrating the talent from the film and television industries of the participating countries.

The awards night was made special by the fact that this was the first time that talents from the two countries shared the stage together. For its inaugural event,Karan Johar played host for the evening alongside Dia Mirza and South African models Tatum Keshwar and Simba.

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The performances,designed by Bollywood choreographer Geeta Kapoor had Dixit-Nene perform some of her classic moves on Ghaghra from Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani among others. Singh danced to a medley of songs filmed on some of Indian cinema’s biggest stars,including Amitabh Bachchan,Dharmendra and Salman Khan. Aunty Romba,a popular South African stand-up comic,matched Johar’s wit on stage.

The Best Actor awards in Hindi cinema went to Ranbir Kapoor (Male) and Priyanka Chopra (Female) for Barfi!,and the film also won the Film of the Year award. Johar collected the Best Director award on behalf of Abhishek Kapoor who won it for Kai Po Che. Sidharth Malhotra bagged the Debut of the Year award (Student of the Year) and Abraham took the trophy for Special Award for Best Youth Icon.

The ceremony also showcased the talent on television from both the countries. Gurmeet Chaudhary for Pavitra Rishta and Kratika Sengar for Punar Vivaah won the Lead Actor of the Year (Male and Female respectively). Robert Whitehead (for Isidingo) and Baby Cele (for Zabalaza) were their South African counterparts. As the curtain fell,the audience — a mix of the various communities that reside in Durban,rose in applause to demonstrate that the visual arts truly transcend boundaries.