Bollywood hunk John Abraham voiced his desire to be known as an intelligent actor, actress Preity Zinta flaunted her itsy-bitsy knowledge of Malayalam words and Kerala’s long-enduring idol Mammootty proved that he’s still got it at 62. While the rest of the stars glided down the red carpet on foot, he zoomed in on a white Rolls Royce. Yes, that’s what big stars do.
Welcome to the 2013 Asiavision Movie Awards that saw thousands of Malayalis descend upon Dubai Festival City arena on Friday to watch their favourite actors and directors from Kerala. What they didn’t bargain for was the charming way in which Bollywood stars led by Abraham, Zinta, Rani Mukherjee and Karishma Kapoor won them over with their wit and grace.
“I am here because I am half-Malayali and I am proud to be one,” said Abraham as he came upon stage to receive the ‘Icon Of The Year’ honour. Now, with such a grand opening line, everything else he said or did was gravy.
“I was shooting for Madras Café in Chennai and I had the honour of spending time with Mammootty sir. He made some good home-made food for me. I need a bit more of that,” said Abraham who feasted on appams and puttu (steamed rice cake) for breakfast during his Madras Café days. While he’s desperate to be taken seriously as a producer who backs content-rich films and not as a piece of delectable meat, the audio-visuals introducing him to Malayalis that evening were ridden with images of him shirtless.
“But I want to known as a person who is known for their intelligent cinema. That’s a good place to be,” he said. His plea didn’t fall on deaf ears. Bollywood actress Mukherjee, who was honoured with the ‘Excellence In Hindi Cinema’ trophy showed her support by saying he’s already made that transition with “wonderful films” such as Madras Café and Vicky Donor.
“Thank you to all my Malayalam fans for giving me so much love throughout my career. We actors are nothing without you all,” said Mukherjee, whose recent films include thriller Talaash and the experimental film Bombay Talkies. Her role as a hapless mother grappling with the tragedy of her son’s death in Talaash was widely appreciated.
“I can’t say I am a half-Malayali like John, but I can say that I am in the hearts of all you Malayalis,” said Mukherjee. Naturally, she didn’t walk away until she had shared an anecdote about acting with Kerala’s reigning star Prithviraj in her Hindi satire Aiyaa.
“Prithvi is a darling,” said Mukherjee. No sooner had she said it, thousands of Prithviraj fans roared their approval.
“He is a wonderful guy. Malayalam actors are so down-to-earth. He came down to Mumbai and worked earnestly like a newcomer even though he’s such a big star here. When you are in the industry, people get a bit crazy, but not him,” said Mukherjee. Unfortunately, actor Prithviraj gave this awards night a miss despite winning ‘Man Of The Year’ award for his act in thriller Mumbai Police, Cellulloid and Ayalum Njanum Thammil.
His elder brother Indrajit won big at this year’s Asiavision Awards, the winners of which are decided over an online voting system. He took home the ‘Outstanding Performer Of The Year’ title for his portrayal of a corrupt cop in communist drama Left Right Left and as a clergyman in Amen.
“This year has been the best year in my career because I got to play some strong character roles,” said Indrajit. The multi-talented Murali Gopi, who acted in and wrote the screenplay for Left Right Left, dedicated his win to all those who supported and derided his project.
However, the night belonged to Mammootty, who won the Best Actor for his performances in Kunjananthante Kada and Daivathinte Swantham Cleetus. Anything he said was lapped up by his fans.
“It is really late, it’s getting cold and many [stars] have already left. The person who wins the Best Actor award faces that problem: they need to stay till the end,” Mammootty said in Malayalam. His sardonic humour went down well with his legion of fans who waited till the end.
“Awards bring happiness and accountability. Each time we win awards, our shoulders weigh down with the knowledge that we need to keep up the good work. Thank you for all your support and encouragement. Just like many of you expatriates here, I am among those who rarely gets the pleasure to live with our kids and wife all the time,” said Mammooty, alluding to many Malayalis who leave their families back home in Kerala to eke out a living in Gulf shores. They live like bachelors and visit their wives once or twice a year. He announced that he may soon feature in a film about pravasis (expatriates) in the Gulf.
“Salim Ahmed [director] narrated a story about all those living in the Gulf. It’s a tale that brings the sweetness and sourness of living the life of an immigrant. You will soon see me imitating your life. Salim may not have announced it yet, but I am just letting you know,” Mammootty said.
Since he had a plane to catch, he kept his vote of thanks short and crisp.
“I wanted to talk to you more but a plane doesn’t wait for you,” said Mammootty, who was ushered out as soon as he collected the award. Humour came in the form of Zinta’s attempt to speak in Malayalam. She was honoured with ‘Pride Of Bollywood’ title.
“I know just three words: ‘poda thadiya’ [get lost fatso] and ‘eda manda’ [you, idiot] and the verse from Jiya Jale. But it’s lovely to be in Dubai, one of my favourite cities in the world. I couldn’t understand anything this evening, so it was fun to do the translations in my head.”