Aishwarya perfoming during the Asia Vision Awards at Sharjah Cricket Stadium. Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf news

Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan gave us a crash course on dancing gracefully, Malayalam actor Mammootty declared his greed for good roles and Tamil actor Dhanush found it ironic that he was receiving the youth icon award at 31. Welcome to the ninth edition of the Asiavision Movie Awards, the annual extravaganza that honours the best in Malayalam cinema, held at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on November 14.

The expansive playground saw some unusual activity this weekend: the players on the field that evening were not sporting legends, but actors who rocked the Malayalam film industry along with a smattering of stars from Hindi (Rai Bachchan) and Tamil cinema (Dhanush and Shruti Hassan). For thousands of Malayalis who purchased tickets for the long-winded show, it was a double delight since they could witness legendary actor Mammootty in action and be charmed by Bollywood royalty, Rai Bachchan.

Thunderous applause erupted when the lady in red, Rai Bachchan, walked in to receive the Icon Of India Award.

“Good evening Sharjah. Thank you for giving me this honour. It’s been a trip down memory lane for me tonight. The AV [audio-visual that chronicled her best films in her career] brought a smile to my face. I can’t thank you enough for such a wonderful evening,” said Rai Bachchan. Her scarlet lips looked risque, but the Jazbaa star didn’t falter when it came to grace or diplomacy.

“You all are a terrific crowd and deserve a round of applause for such a terrific turnout … We are creative people and as actors or performers, we like to give all we can through our hard work. We are blessed that we can make a career out of what we are so passionate about. All our creativity is brought to fruition through you, the audience, Thank you for giving us so much love and support through our journey,” said Rai Bachchan, folding her hands in true Miss World style.

But what got her fans excited were not her lavish compliments, but her sporting spirit. After some prompting by a couple of vivacious hosts, the mother of a toddler proved she’s still got it. Along with the dance troupe who had performed a tribute to the actress, Rai Bachchan showed Sharjah how it’s done. Smiling shyly, she swayed her hips to Kajraare from Bunty Aur Babli and busted a few moves with elan.

But the prize for doing away with diplomacy went to Mammootty, who won the Best Actor award for his role as a ruthless convict in the thriller Munnariyippu.

“This is the ninth edition of Asia Vision and I have won [Best Actor award] six times in those years,” said Mammootty. Just like how he shed his mustard jacket before going up the stage (his idea of making a dramatic stage entry) to collect the award, Mammootty — who has thrived in the Malayalam movie scene for more than four decades — declared that he’s going to stick around for a very long time.

“There’s a dialogue in my film, Munnariyippu, which goes: ‘Truth and light cannot be masked forever. We can block it, but that doesn’t negate the truth or the intensity of light.’ My sentiment towards acting is similar. My greed for good roles is not going to disappear, no matter who tries to block it. As far as I am concerned, my impetus to living my life is the hope that I will get to play such good roles and such roles would seek me out,” said Mammootty.

His every sentence was lapped up by his legion of fans, who were in great form at 9.30pm. Usually, the Best Actor trophy is reserved as the climax of Asiavision, a six-hour-plus show, but Mammootty was thrilled that his turn came early this year.

“Normally, I get this award around 11.30 at night. By then, the audience is hungry, tired and they leave. Some believe that our fans will stay till the end to see us actors, but that’s not the truth. The truth is that we are eager to see you all,” said Mammootty.

Just when you thought that he is no narcissist, the 63-year-old idol conspiratorially added that he may be back on stage next year since his latest film, Varsham, has awards written all over it. Going by the cheers he evoked, nobody seemed to mind his monopoly. It was also a big night for his son Dulquer Salmaan, who won the Performer Of The Year award for his role in feel-good friendship drama Bangalore Days, Vikramadithyan and Njan.

“Salaam Sharjah. I don’t know if you noticed but Aishwarya Rai was sitting next to me and that felt awesome,” said Salmaan with an impish grin. “This has been a special year, with releases such as Bangalore Days, Vikramadithyan and Njaan. I was able to work with prominent directors and do some memorable roles. My role in Njaan has been my toughest yet … Sharjah, you rock,” said Salmaan.

But the night belonged to comeback queen Manju Warrier, who won the Best Actress award for her role as the dare-to-dream housewife Nirupama Rajeev.

“There are thousands of women in the kitchens of Kerala who have resigned themselves to their fate and forgotten to dream. Nirupama provided them the courage to dream and inspired them with self confidence to go after their dreams again. If a woman’s life has been transformed in a small way through Nirupama, then it’s my life well-led. Thank you so much for accepting my character Nirupama,” said Warrier. She dedicated her award to the team of How Old Are You, who supported her.

“After 16 years, when I walked into the film sets of How Old Are You, these people gave the love and support akin to meeting an old friend or re-uniting with a sibling after a long time. They all deserve this award,” said Warrier.

While she was in a sombre mood, Dhanush couldn’t help smiling at receiving the Youth Icon award at 31. “Truth be told, my youth has disappeared. I dyed my grey hair today … For Raanjhanaa [his Bollywood debut], I received a debut award after acting in 25 Tamil films. So, all this [awards] has become a joke of sorts. But I still consider such tokens a blessing. My parents must have done something good in their past life,” said Dhanush.

While Dhanush declined to sing Kolaveri Di, Malayalam actor Jayaram, who was honoured with the 30 Years of Excellence in Tamil And Malayalam Cinema award, was more than happy to play the chenda (the cylindrical percussion instrument). He dedicated his win to his wife and former actress Parvathy.

“This moment makes me nostalgic and takes me back 30 years ago when my friend and I, as mimicry artists, had roamed around the shops of Rolla Square in Sharjah. We had dreams but we never thought that we would be actors then. But standing here receiving such an honour fills me with pride and gratitude. It’s your [audience] love and generosity that has brought me on to the stage.”

While he was getting teary-eyed, what got the show on the road was the sight of him in a blazer going to town with the drums. As Mammootty rightly said: “Now that’s a vision that I thought I would never see.”