x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Bachchan accepts and confers honours in Marathi films

The actor was in Dubai for an awards ceremony to honour artists from the Indian state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is capital.

Amitabh Bachchan presents the best actress award to Vibhawari Deshpande for her role in Harishchandrachi Factory in Dubai yesterday.
Amitabh Bachchan presents the best actress award to Vibhawari Deshpande for her role in Harishchandrachi Factory in Dubai yesterday.

DUBAI // The Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan received an award in Dubai last night for the global appeal of a movie produced by his entertainment company.

The actor, known as the Big B for his commanding presence in Indian cinema, was in Dubai for an awards ceremony to honour artists from the Indian state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is capital.

Vihir (Well), produced by Bachchan's company AB Corporation Ltd, is a coming of age tale about the bond between two cousins.

"Celebrating movies by having an awards function abroad is an important link for those who live far away from home," he told the 1,500-strong audience in Dubai. "This is a link that will continue to connect people and should always remain strong."

He recalled a pledge he took when launching AB Corporation Ltd in 1995 to promote languages other than Hindi, which is the language of Bollywood movies.

"I've always believed, however many languages our country has, each language must be given its due respect," Bachchan said. "We decided with AB Corp, [Maharashtra] had given us everything - all success - so it is our duty to promote the art of that land. That is why we produce movies in Marathi."

The 68-year-old actor is one of India's most recognisable stars. He has acted in more than 160 movies, and last year topped a survey on India's most influential celebrities.

"I love his powerful voice and the way he looks at villains," said young fan Mansi Patel, 12. "It would make anyone crumple."

Others respect Bachchan for promoting Indian cinema abroad.

"Heroes have come and gone but he is one of the biggest Indian stars who has had an impact on locals and overseas Indians," said Ashok Motwani, a former adviser with India's arts and culture ministry. "He is the best brand we have."

Bachchan also presented the best actress award to the noted Marathi movie actress Vibhawari Deshpande for her role in Harishchandrachi Factory.

Organisers of the Marathi International Film and Theatre Awards said the ceremony was an attempt to heighten awareness of movies produced in the region.

"Marathi films at one point soared to glorious heights," said Mahesh Manjrekar, the main organiser of the awards night. "Bollywood has captured everyone's attention and we must get Marathi films out of Bollywood's shadow."

The organisers said they chose Dubai for the awards ceremony because of its proximity to India and the strong support Marathi stage performances and movie screenings received from the large population of Maharashtrians in the UAE.

Some 150 Marathi artists and singers attended, including Sachin Pelgaonkar and Mahesh Kothari.

The crowd cheered as Maharashtrian dances, songs and skits were performed on a stage before a backdrop of Mumbai landmarks.

rtalwar@thenational.ae