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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Abu Dhabi to host sixth edition of South Indian International Movie Awards

Fans of Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu cinema should watch out for its film stars in and around Abu Dhabi.
Hansika Motwani performs at Siima Awards in Sharjah in 2013. Courtesy Siima
Hansika Motwani performs at Siima Awards in Sharjah in 2013. Courtesy Siima

This weekend, more than 600 film crew and celebrities from four southern Indian states – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh – will descend on Abu Dhabi for the sixth edition of the South Indian International Movie Awards (Siima). The sheer scale of the enterprise is mind-boggling: four independent film industries will honour actors, directors, singers and musicians across a range of categories on Friday and Saturday at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

Adusumilli Brinda Prasad, chairperson of Siima, says choosing the UAE capital to host the glittering two-day event was an easy decision to make.

“The proactive approach of Tourism and Culture Abu Dhabi made our job easy when it came to selecting this city from a group of other interested metropolises,” she says, pointing out that past venues have always been cities boasting a large Indian diaspora, with the UAE figuring three times already: the previous hosts have been Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Sharjah and Dubai, which has hosted the event twice.

Starry nights

Prasad promises that the red carpet in Abu Dhabi will be thronging with A-listers. Top nominations include veteran actor Mohanlal from Kerala, who is frequently spotted in Dubai – he is said to own a home in Arabian Ranches and an apartment in the Burj Khalifa. Mohanlal is up for a Supporting Actor Award for his role in the Telugu crime drama Janatha Garage (one of eight nominations the film has received).

Tamil favourites include actress Trisha, who is shortlisted for Best Actor in a Negative Role for the film Kodi, and Vijay, an award-winning star and strong favourite for best actor. His film Theri is up for four other awards, too, including Best Director (Atlee Kumar) and Best Film.

Young heartthrob Rakshit Shetty is nominated for Best Actor for his starring turn in the Kannada-language Kirik Party (12 nominations, including Best Film and Best Director for Rishab Shetty), while Telugu star Rakul Preet is on the list for best actress for the film Nannaku Prematho.

Malayalam film Maheshinte Prathikaram, starring Fahadh Faasil (who is also up for Best Actor), leads the Kerala nominations with 11 nods, followed by Nivin Pauly’s Action Hero Biju (eight).

One lifetime achievement award will be presented, to S P Balasubrahmanyam, the prolific Karnataka-born musician, singer, producer and actor, who has five Best Singer National awards to his name, and a Guinness World Record for the most number of songs.

Move over, Bollywood

Despite the fanfare surrounding southern movie-award ceremonies, Bollywood has always been the face of Indian cinema abroad. Its glitterati, from Priyanka Chopra and Amitabh Bachchan to Irrfan Khan and Anil Kapoor, are veritable ambassadors who command much of the international limelight, as well as box-office takings, worldwide. It was with this imbalance in mind that Siima was launched in 2012, bringing together all four southern film industries in a bid to take on the formidable Bollywood juggernaut.

Besides producing internationally acclaimed talent such as the double-Oscar-winning music director A R Rahman, southern cinema is slowly gaining new, appreciative audiences in northern India, which has long been a Bollywood stronghold. A good example is the extravagantly produced Telugu period films Baahubali: The Beginning and Baahubali 2: The Conclusion. The sequel was released in cinemas in April, which means it misses out on Siima’s 2017 nominations, but it has since made nearly 17 billion rupees (Dh966 million) in the subcontinent and around the world, and is still playing in Indian cinemas. The first film won Best Film in the Telugu category at Siima 2016, several Filmfare and IIFA Utsam gongs, and a national award. It also broke the record for highest-grossing Indian movie of all time, sailing past the previous record breaker, the 2014 Bollywood film PK. The achievement was significant, considering that PK’s stellar cast was led by Aamir Khan, one of Bollywood’s most-loved and powerful trifecta of actors (the other two being Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan).

Delighted by the unprecedented success of the Baahubali films, southern Indian fans immediately began trolling their Bollywood counterparts and even actors on social-media platforms pointing out the dozens of Hindi films that are cookie-cutter remakes of southern Indian movies.

There is perhaps no bigger fan of southern Indian cinema than Salman Khan. “Sallu Bhai”, as the actor is affectionately known, has produced and starred in a string of Hindi blockbusters – among them Wanted (2008), Bodyguard (2011) and Kick (2014) – that are remakes of Telugu, Tamil or Malayalam movies. He is not the only one guilty of taking the easy road. Several other Bollywood heavyweights have also starred in Hindi versions of southern Indian movies, including Akshay Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan.

An Abu Dhabi affair

Going by past Siima instalments, especially last year’s colourful Dubai edition, Adnec is set to resound with thumping dance sequences set to popular tracks, all led by top artists, such as Pooja Hegde, Hansika, Shriya Saran and indomitable songstress Usha Uthup. Fans are also hoping that Rana Daggubati will be among those taking to the stage. The actor is no stranger to Abu Dhabi – he was here in 2014, alongside Bollywood action hero Akshay Kumar, for the filming of the thriller Baby.

Preparations for the big weekend will soon be underway, with Siima staff and members of the crew scheduled to fly into Abu Dhabi a few days beforehand. Prasad says the team hope to spend some time exploring the city, so fans can expect to see their favourite stars in and around all the popular landmarks – Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas Mall.

“The crew will arrive four days before the event, while the stars will come in starting today,” says Prasad.

“It will be a three-day stay and they will cover some of the best spots in Abu Dhabi as part of their sightseeing plans.”

artslife@thenational.ae