After travelling the world far and wide to locations such as Dubai, Singapore, London, Mauritius and Macao, the Zee Cine Awards make their way back to India in celebration of 100 years of Indian cinema. "This year is very important to us as Zee TV completes 20 years of its existence," said Puneet Goenka, the managing director and chief executive of Zee Entertainment Enterprises at a press conference in Panchgani, India, recently. "Also, it accounts for 100 years of Indian cinema. After creating a footprint across the world in various places, we want to bring it back to its hometown Mumbai, where the Bollywood industry exists."
Also at the conference was Shah Rukh Khan, and Goenka stated that no Zee Cine Awards have been held without the actor and this year will be no different: Khan is set to host the awards as well as perform during the ceremony.
This year's awards ceremony will also pay tribute to the film director, scriptwriter and film producer Yash Chopra, who died in October. Known as "the king of romance", Chopra made a contribution to Bollywood, since his directorial debut in 1959, that is hard to match. Khan is going to be the star of a tribute performance which will also feature leading ladies from Chopra's films.
The nominations for the various categories have not been announced, but we share our thoughts on who might be the strongest contenders for this year's biggest awards.
Priyanka Chopra: For this small-town girl from Bareilly, India, who went on to become Miss World, 2012 has been a good year. She was voted Sexiest Woman Alive in Asia, made her singing debut, was nominated at the World Music Awards, delivered two super hits (Barfi! and Agneepath) with a combined box office taking of approximately Dh3bn and has officially become the highest-paid actress in Bollywood, with a reported fee of Dh6m for the forthcoming remake of the 1970s Bollywood classic Zanjeer. We think the stars are aligned for her to walk away with this award.
Vidya Balan: After the phenomenal success of last year's The Dirty Picture, Balan hit another home run in 2012 with the highly acclaimed Kahaani. Balan has carved a niche for herself as Bollywood's icon for women-centric films. Recently marrying UTV's chief Siddharth Roy Kapoor, Balan may bag this award for her poignant portrayal of a pregnant woman who shows up in a Kolkata looking for her missing husband.
Kareena Kapoor: Also recently wed, Kareena Kapoor had to relinquish her position as highest-paid actress to Chopra, but she's not quite ready to give up the fight for the Best Actress award. Her portrayal of a neurotic film star in Heroine and her performance alongside Aamir Khan in the recent Talaash put her high up on the list of potential winners.
Shah Rukh Khan: The King Khan is going to be hosting this year's ceremony and may very well end up cradling the Best Actor trophy, too. As the star of Yash Chopra's swansong Jab Tak Hai Jaan and a six-time winner of this award (including last year's Best Actor award for Don 2), he is one of the strongest contenders.
Salman Khan: Khan is probably still recovering from his 47th birthday festivities - and more celebrations might be in store as it is very likely that he will walk away with the Best Actor award. The Bad Boy of Bollywood has been trying to do good for quite a while now and though his formulaic acting brings nothing new to the table, his presence in a film still brings the crowds in droves. So he proved in 2011 with Ready and Bodyguard and so has proved with Ek Tha Tiger and Dabangg 2 this year.
Ranbir Kapoor: Last year, he won the Zee Cine Award for Best Actor in the Popular category (for Rockstar) and his delicate, humorous and endearing performance in Barfi! puts him in the race for the Jury award this year. Kapoor has said that he wants to be as big as the Khans. His wish might come true this year.
Kahaani: This taut, gripping thriller directed, co-written and co-produced by Sujoy Ghosh and featuring Vidya Balan, Parambrata Chatterjee and Nawazuddin Siddiqui was one of the most memorable films of the year. While Balan's commendable histrionics were the star attraction, the supporting actors all brought their own nuance to this story, which featured an unlikely protagonist and a decidedly strange plot.
Gangs of Wasseypur (Parts 1 and 2): Co-written, produced and directed by Anurag Kashyap, the two parts of this film make for five solid hours of dramatic blood and gore. Repeatedly described as an "experiment gone right", both films were a far cry from Bollywood's standard formula and challenged audience sensibilities.
English Vinglish: Given that this was Sridevi's comeback film, it was hard to miss. For the few that did, raves and reviews soon drove them to the cinemas, or to get a copy on DVD. Directed by Gauri Shinde and produced by R Balki, the film was devoid of the glamour that is crammed into every square inch of the Bollywood frame these days. A simple, sari-clad Sridevi - in broken English - took our breath away with this endearing story of a housewife and her struggle with the English language.
Popular Category Awards
The Zee Cine Awards let the public be part of the action via the Popular Category Awards. Film lovers can log onto the website www.zeecineawards.com to cast their vote or can phone in on the (Indian) number 1800 102 1177. Visit the site to view the nominations in all categories.
The 14th edition of the film awards will take place at the Yash Raj Films studios in Mumbai on January 6 and will be shown on Zee TV on January 20