Now that's entertainment. If there's any industry that knows how to whip a crowd into overdrive, it's Bollywood. The Oscars might want to take note.
In particular, if the Oscars continue to struggle to find suitable young Hollywood stars capable of handling their hosting duties, they may want to consider having Anuskha Sharma and Ranbir Kapoor (whose film Barfi! swept the evening's major award categories) hold a master class on how to do so. The charismatic, animated, and polished pair served as Times of India Film Awards cohosts for the inaugural edition (held on April 6 at BC Place) of these peoples' choice awards.
B.C. premier Christy Clark, whose decision to fund the awards with $11 million of taxpayers' money has been mired in controversy, was met with both boos and cheers as she strode on stage through a tunnel of cherry blossoms. Clark, dressed in turquoise Indian outfit, went heavy on pushing economic prospects for British Columbia in her opening speech.
"Let's use this wonderful celebration of Indian film to continue to build bridges between us: more trade opportunities, more tourism, and definitely more of your movies filmed right here in beautiful British Columbia," she said.
Clark also presented the best director award along with choreographer Shiamak Davar.
"My friend Shiamak is an example of what makes this province great," Clark said. "A home in Mumbai, a home in North Vancouver. Bridging countries, bridging cultures—this is who we are."
Finance minister Mike de Jong won over the audience in comedic banter with cohost Boman Irani. De Jong garnered laughs and cheers as he recited Hindi movie dialogue and even pulled off some brief pelvic-thrusting Bollywood dance moves. (Yikes.)
But what scored major points with the audience was the opening dance, which featured a massive display of Surrey bhangra dancers performing the traditional Punjabi folk dance and showcased local talent for an international audience (the event was televised in South Asia).
With Bollywood's A-list crowding the house, it's a wonder that any audience members had vocal abilities by the evening's end. Any brief appearance of Shah Rukh Khan on the Jumbotron was met with voluminous screams.
A stampede erupted and people rose to their feet as Abhishek Bachchan—one half of Bollywood's power-couple equivalent of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie—emerged from an entrance in the stands surrounded by bodyguards. Riding a cart in a procession around the stadium, Bachchan worked the crowd into frenzied cheers.
He took to the stage to perform one of several hyper-visual, colour oversaturated, multi-song-and-dance numbers. In comparison to dance sequences in Bollywood films, these live performances were content-dense medleys boasting thundering dance beats, stage-filling fleets of dancers, extravagant pyrotechnics, and blindingly sparkly outfits (Don Cherry's wardrobe would pale in comparison).
Katrina Kaif performed in some of the sultriest numbers of the night, flanked by female dancers sexily dressed in bustiers, thigh-high stockings, and boxing gloves alongside bare-chested male dancers, and later she even delved into a Middle Eastern–influenced dance.
Priyanka Chopra gave Kaif a run for her money as she emerged from behind a massive orchid in a glittering white-and-silver bodysuit. However, she showed off her versatility, in a cutesy dance number with child performers, a high-energy take on Dostana's "Desi Girl" and "Maa Da Ladla", and gentle ballads.
Some of the loudest cheers of the evening were reserved for Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who smiled bashfully in response (it was her first international on-stage performance since becoming a mother). Descending from the ceiling in an illuminated basket, she took to the stage surrounded by female dancers holding candles and male whirling dervishes spinning in the background. Her performance launched with a spiritual tone before moving into more energetic tunes, and was set to tracks ranging from the Dhoom 2 theme song to "Khwaja Mere Khawaja" from Jodhaa Akbar.
When Abhishek Bachchan accepted the award for best actor in a comic role, he thanked Aishwarya for taking care of their daughter when he works. He also apologized for not being able to perform in Vancouver on the Unforgettable tour, due to a cancelled show. "I promised myself that I'd come back and make it up to you so I hope tonight that was a bit of payback," he said. "And I promise you the next time, I won't only bring Aishwarya, I'll bring my dad as well," he added, referring to the legendary Amitabh Bachchan. He also gave a shout-out to the local dancers who performed with him.
Chopra, upon winning the best female actor award, brought her dad up on stage.
"Thank you, Dad, for teaching me to take chances, and for teaching me to stand up for what I believe in—for truth," she said in her acceptance speech. "Everybody told me when I was doing Barfi!, why are you not doing [other films]…this is a tough part. But…it is the most special film I have done."
Needless to say, what truly brought down the house was when King Khan finally burst on stage, provoking defeaning cheers. In spite of a shoulder injury ("I may not be able to dance as well as I would like to," he said), the 47-year-old megastar pushed on through a performance that saw him grabbing a guitar, removing his purple jacket to groove in a tank top and silver vest, later donning a red jacket that lit up with electric lights and the word criminal written on the back. That's not to mention his dancing to everything from upbeat, midtempo songs to faster, slamming beats, with a songlist that included "Chamak Challo", "Suraj Hua Maddham", and "Challa Ki Labh Da Phire".
Davar closed out the night with a finale that included "Desi Girl", "Om Shanti Om", and "Disco Deewane" (from Student of the Year), and he gracefully shared the stage with the evening's glittering procession of stars.
Perhaps one of the most appropriate acceptance speeches of the night was by Ranbir Kapoor. "I love you, I love you, I love you," he gushed. For as Irani explained earlier in the evening, "At the end of the day, the language of Indian cinema is love."