It was cultural integration at its best as the first South Indian International Movie Awards (SIIMA) to be held in Dubai took off at the World Trade Centre on Friday.
United in their cause to bolster South Indian cinema, an array of stars from Andhra Pradesh (Language spoken: Telugu), Tamil Nadu (Tamil), Karnataka (Kannada) and Kerala (Malayalam) took it upon themselves to showcase their best from their respective states.
“I am proud to be an Indian, but I am more proud to be a South Indian tonight,” said Tamil actor Vikram as he accepted the Best Actor Critic Award from celebrity couple Sridevi and Boney Kapoor.
Propelled by the loud cheers from his fans cutting across geography and age, the star clearly wore his pride on his sleeves.
“All of us hold our heads high this evening. Remember some of the biggest hits in Bollywood today are re-makes of Tamil and Telugu and that speaks volumes about the cinema we do and the strides we have taken,” said Vikram who won the award for his mentally-challenged act in Devai Tirumagal.
But the star of the evening was singer-actor Dhanush of Kolaveri Di-fame, who won three awards.
“This award is a grave injustice to all the real singers in the industry,” joked Dhanush in Tamil as he raised his Best Singer gong for his massively popular hit Kadhal En Kadhal.
“I am dedicating this award to all the bathroom singers out there,” he added.
His joke was well-timed as it took the pressure out of SIIMA hosts Madhavan, Parvathy Omanakuttan and Lakshmi Manchu. Visibly struggling to get the show on the road, the trio had to make peace with some serious technical glitches including faulty audio-visuals, prompters that raced ahead and some lazy microphones.
“We saw a few hiccups tonight, some funny ones at that. But thank you guys for making this a family affair,” said Madhavan to a rather receptive, all-forgiving audience. Clearly, they had eyes and ears for Dhanush, who won them over by dancing and singing to his global hit Kolaveri Di as he celebrated his Best Actor (Popular Awards category) win for his cock-fighter act in romantic drama Aadukalam.
“I am 28 and this is my first Best Actor Tamil win. I have acted in 23 films so far, so I will never forget this award. It’s also my son’s birthday tonight,” said Dhanush, as he goaded his fans to wish his son Linga on his special day.
The previous night, the diminutive hero had also won the SIIMA Gen Next Sensation of South India Award.
It proved to be a memorable night for actress Asin as she walked home with the coveted Best Actor (Female) trophy for her film Kaavalan.
“South Indian industry is like my mother and I have received so much love from her. This is where I originally hail from,” said Asin, who has found remarkable success in Bollywood too. Despite being in the thick of Bollywood release Bol Bachchan’s promotions, she took time to attend the award ceremony.
“There was no way I could ever skip the SIIMAs. This is a celebration of South Indian cinema, the industry that gave me everything in my life. This is where I started from, how can I be absent for it?”
Meanwhile, the Best Actor (Critics category — Female) in Tamil was awarded to Richa Gangopadhyaya.
“I dedicate this award to my parents, who allowed me to pursue such an unconventional career,” said the US-returned Gangopadyaya.
Though the turnout from the Telugu, Tamil and Kannada industry was robust, the Malayalam contingent was relatively slim with just a handful of stars such as Kavya Madhavan, Kunjacko Boban, Shwetha Menon, Salim Ahamed and Baburaj in attendance. Even Mohanlal, who won the Best Actor (Malayalam) for Pranayam, couldn’t attend as he was busy at the Asia Vision Television Awards, being held on the same night in Dubai.
“I am collecting this award on behalf of Lalettan, whom I had the pleasure of working with in the film Christian Brothers,” said Sarath Kumar, the Tamil star.
Presenting awards was not the sole highlight of SIIMAs. Considered the less-flashier cousin of Bollywood, South Indian starlets took it upon themselves to display their dancing and singing skills. A bevy of beauties including Priyamani, Shruti Haasan, Sameera Reddy and Charmi danced to a string of hits to get the crowd on their feet. Judging by the catcalls and hoots, the audience loved every bit of them.