Bollywood Awards: Tamil Protest prevents return to “Business as Usual” in Sri Lanka

Amitabh Bachchan: will reportedly not attend opening ceremony

MEL GUNASEKERA

June 6, 2010 – 8:49AM

Megastar Aamir Khan’s hit movie “3 Idiots” swept the “Bollywood Oscars” in Sri Lanka this weekend, securing 16 out of 27 awards, including best film.

The film — a coming-of-age comedy about three engineering students — was nominated in 12 of the 13 main categories at the Indian International Film Academy (IIFA) awards and won eight of them on Saturday night.

It had already secured another eight of the 14 technical awards announced last month, including best screenplay and best cinematography.

But actor-producer-director Khan, who stars in the film, was not present at Saturday’s glitzy ceremony in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, which was overshadowed by protests from minority Tamils.

The influential film industry in India’s southern Tamil Nadu state, which is home to many Tamil refugees, called for a boycott, arguing that staging the event in Colombo endorsed Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse’s government.

Rajapakse is under pressure from the international community to allow a probe into a controversial military strategy that crushed Tamil rebels last year, ending a near four-decade civil war.

The United Nations has said at least 7,000 Tamil civilians were also killed in the final months of fighting last year.

IIFA brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, who won the best actor award for his role in “Paa,” was also not present at the awards ceremony.

The best actress award was shared by Kareena Kapoor for her role in “3 Idiots” and Vidya Balan for her role in “Paa.”

Other notable absentees included Bachchan’s actor son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai — Bollywood’s leading couple — and megastar Shah Rukh Khan.

Shah Rukh Khan escaped a bomb attack on his concert in Colombo in 2004 that killed two of his fans.

Fans and invitees poured into the venue to catch a glimpse of big-name Bollywood stars like Hrithik Roshan, Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor and Vivek Oberoi sing and dance scenes from their movies during the near six-hour show.

“I came to see Kareena and Hrithik perform. They were simply fabulous,” said Dinal Corera, a businessman.

“I’m a bit disappointed Amitabh Bachchan stayed away, for the first time in 11 years,” said college student, Isha Mandalaus. “Amitabh’s presence would have raised the award ceremony’s profile.”

Fashion student Heshani Siriwardene said: “I am here to see Salman Khan. I’m a huge fan, so happy to see him perform live.”

IIFA has held its annual awards abroad each year, in a bid to raise the profile of the more than two-billion-dollar Hindi film industry and has seen its international success rise as a result.

Sri Lanka had hoped that hosting the Indian film stars would showcase the island’s tourism potential after 37 years of ethnic conflict claimed up to 100,000 lives between 1972 and 2009.

© 2010 AFP

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