Bollywood comes to North America

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The Independent Culture

Flash mobs of Indian dancers, dozens of Bollywood superstars hounded by autograph-seeking fans and a gala movie premiere kicked off the 12th Indian International Film Awards on Thursday.

It is the first time that the award ceremony has been held in North America.

The three-day festival got underway with an address by host and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty in which he vowed that all Westerners by the end of the IIFA celebrations "will know the names of Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra and Anil Kapoor just as well as Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and Rachel McAdams."

Ontario has the second largest Indian diaspora in the world, topping 600,000 out of a total population of 13 million, "and their passion for Indian cinema has become ours (all Ontarians) too," he added.

Throughout the province, groups of Indian dancers spontaneously erupted into dance to help promote the event.

Thousands of fans gathered outside a cinema in a suburb of Toronto for the world premiere of the comedy "Double Dhamaal" and glimpses of their favorite stars, such as Mallika Sherawat, Dia Mirza, Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Priyanka Chopra, Bipasha Basu, and Shilpa Shetty.

"Slumdog Millionaire" actor Anil Kapoor drew the loudest cheers on the "green" carpet.

And musical guest Jermaine Jackson told reporters how he and his siblings were inspired as young boys by Bollywood's shimmer and shake.

"We loved the dance, the costumes, the entertainment, the set designs. That inspired us a great deal," he said.

Jackson will perform his late brother's hits and sing with Indian pop singer Sonu Nigam at an IIFA concert on Friday to commemorate the second anniversary of Michael Jackson's death.

Launched in 2000 at the Millennium Dome in London the annual IIFA awards have been held in 11 cities around the world, including Colombo, Macao, Thailand, Dubai, Amsterdam and Johannesburg.

The event is designed to celebrate the popular Hindi-language film industry and win new audiences abroad.

Bollywood gangster movie "Once Upon a Time in Mumbai" leads the field in the nominations for the Hindi-language film industry's glitziest awards, with Saturday's ceremony marking the culmination of the festival.

The film has been nominated in 12 categories for the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards, including best film and best male lead for Ajay Devgan, one of Bollywood's leading actors.

Screen tough guy Salman Khan's corrupt cop romp "Dabangg" (Fearless) is close behind with 11 nominations.

Other movies in the running for a clutch of awards include the drama "Ishqiya" (Love) with nine nominations. Romantic comedy "Band Baaja Baaraat" (The Wedding Planners) and the thriller "Rajneeti" (Politics) both have eight.

The nominations came from more than 1,500 votes from the Indian film fraternity.

Last year's event in Sri Lanka saw many top stars stay away after protests by Indian Tamils who said Bollywood's decision to come to the island nation legitimized the under-fire government of President Mahinda Rajapakse.

Organizers say 22,000 are expected to attend this year's ceremony at Toronto's Rogers Centre, while another 700 million could watch it on television.

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