Imagine this. George Clooney is unmarried and starts seeing someone who isn’t American, say she’s Indian and trying to make it in Hollywood. Come Oscar night, an entire segment has the girlfriend perform a medley of musical numbers, even though she isn’t a singer. This is followed by Brad Pitt, Clooney’s pal and superstar, being called on stage with Clooney’s new girlfriend to give away the award for no less than Best Director Of The Year. Pitt then proceeds to interview Clooney’s girlfriend about her country and how popular Clooney is over there. Through it all, Clooney smiles gamely at the stage.
Well, just replace Clooney with Salman Khan and Brad Pitt with Shah Rukh Khan, and that’s what happened at Sunday night’s Sansui Stardust Awards with Iulia Vantur, Salman’s alleged girlfriend taking centrestage at the awards and it doubling up as her coming out party. (Of course, there is one key difference that Clooney was never accused—and therefore acquitted—of murder or of killing an endangered animal, but why split hairs?) I’m assuming that this is the quid pro quo that Being Salman can ask from Colors for being the host of their biggest reality show, Bigg Boss.
As bizarre as this sudden focus on Iulia Vantur, it only set the tone for the first of the Bollywood award shows to hit our TV screens.
There was of course the usual that we’ve come to accept from all Bollywood award shows. The Bachchans sat together, Amitabh Bachchan looked stunned at everything that was announced, including his own name. Rekha was dressed for a wedding. This was Rekha’s 11th LIFETIME Achievement award. Which is what makes it laughable. And the producers edited the audience shots to make the actors look like they found the most unhumorous lines, absolutely hilarious. Which made you wonder whether they’d all undergone a mass lobotomy.
Also, much like in all Bollywood award shows, you just needed to scan the audience and you immediately knew who’s winning the awards and performing. Because they’re the only ones who’d attended the award show. This is the standard format. And actors Ajay Devgn and Aamir Khan have often called out award shows on this. And sure enough, everyone in the front row won awards or handed out awards—from Jaya Bachchan to Amitabh Bachchan to Rekha to Aishwarya Bachchan to Rishi Kapoor en famille and Priyanka Chopra, Karan Johar and Anushka Sharma.
The Indian award shows are also the only ones which are hosted by multiple actors and hosts. As if it’s such a daunting task, no one host can manage to do so without keeling over. So this time’s hosts were Riteish Deshmukh, Abhishek Bachchan (who really should consider shifting to becoming a host, rather than focusing on being an actor), Maneish Paul (who has a new E in his name) and Farah Khan. To be fair, Deshmukh, Paul and Bachchan weren’t half bad and did have some funny asides. Or maybe I’ve just mellowed in my old age.
What was impressive was that the usual Bollywood habit of steering clear of making any political statement, was done away with for at least five minutes of the show. Deshmukh and Bachchan said that they refused to name any Pakistani actors and also paid homage to the death of the Rs500 and Rs1,000 currency notes. Which is brave, given that the former would offend Maharashtra’s favourite thug, Raj Thackeray and the latter would upset our main man, Mr Narendra Modi.
But that’s one of the few positives in a show which was hardly sparkling.
I did note that Anushka Sharma when she gave her acceptance speech for winning for Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, named all her co-stars—other than Fawad Khan. There were awards which even the recipients looked shocked at. Ajay Devgn’s Shivaay won a special award for pathbreaking direction and special effects! Which made you wonder what Nari Hira had been smoking. Also, there was a continuous reference to “Reader’s Awards”. Now I read Stardust and Filmfare in the parlour, and am awestruck that these magazines have readers who write in and vote for awards. At least that means people are reading in India, even if it is trash.
There were many absurdities. In the middle of everything, Sansui’s latest TV was carried in on a palanquin by men dressed in dhotis, and the official launch took place at the award show. Then the aforementioned Iulia and Himmesh Reshamiya (seemingly wearing Tapas Pal’s wig) did a medley of lip-synched songs and dances—all from Salman Khan’s films (because otherwise how would we know that Vantur was Salman’s chosen one, very subtle). For some reason the organisers thought that Jacqueline Fernandes dancing to Asha Bhonsle and Rekha’s songs would be a compliment to both.
Both of them looked quite mortified and askance. Also, when Karan Johar spoke about how his film Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was a film made for anyone who has experienced unrequited love, the camera panned to Rekha’s face. Much like it panned to Aishwarya Rai’s face when Salman Khan’s supposed girlfriend, Iulia Vantur walked on with Shah Rukh Khan. Very classy, Colors.
What was touching and natural was when Rekha won the Lifetime Achievement Award and said this was her 11th award and gave a short sweet speech. And when Asha Bhonsle, upon receiving the Living Legend award from Jaya Bachchan, sang Jaane jaa, dhoondti phir rahi which had been picturized on Jaya Bachchan, and narrated how young and sweet Bachchan had been at the time, running around with her long plait.
The person who was a breath of fresh air after all the posturing was Jim Sarbh who won for Best Villain for Neerja. Sarbh didn’t give a damn about minding his Ps and Qs and hooted and pumped the air and grabbed his award and went off stage. But that was the rare moment of spontaneity.
If this is what the award shows are going to be like—and next week is the Filmfare awards—it’s slim pickings for us. Because this was at best a mix of Koffee With Karan meets an in-house Khan family Coming Out party for Iulia Vantur. Bizarre meets bizarre.