x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

South Indian film awards overcome disruptions

The inaugural South Indian International Movie Awards (SIIMA) took place in Dubai late last week and, despite a number of hiccups, turned out to be a roaring success.

Sameera Reddy walks the red carpet at SIIMA. Lee Hoagland / The National
Sameera Reddy walks the red carpet at SIIMA. Lee Hoagland / The National

Masala, dramatics, tantalising twists and gratifying (albeit drawn-out) endings. That's what Indian movies are all about, and the inaugural South Indian International Movie Awards (SIIMA) followed suit.

The glittering two-day affair of last week's first-ever edition, SIIMA - which calls itself the "Panorama of South Cinema" - brought close to 80 South Indian stars to Dubai and had its fair share of false starts and hiccups. It began with delayed visas for the guest stars, leading to rescheduled flights and ending in massively delayed events.

Despite these distractions, fans did not lose their enthusiasm and could hardly contain their excitement at this once-in-a-lifetime chance to see their favourite stars from the Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam movie industries all under one roof. On both nights, cheers and chants brought the house down.

SIIMA kicked off with the Gen Next awards and fashion show on Thursday at the Park Hyatt hotel in Dubai, and was followed by a red carpet event and the SIIMA awards themselves on Friday, at the Dubai World Trade Centre.

With a five-hour delay on the first day, the event didn't make the most promising of starts. Fans and spectators were restless and starving by the time the stars sauntered in. However, once things started rolling, frustrations and hunger pangs were forgotten. The stars were amiably socialising with each other and with their fans.

The Gen Next awards, which honoured the best emerging talent from the film industry, were hosted by the former beauty queen Parvathy Omanakuttan and featured performances by various stars including Andrea Jeremiah and Chinmayi Sripada.

The top honour, the SIIMA Sensation of South Asia award, was unsurprisingly bestowed upon Dhanush, the man behind the monstrous hit song Kolaveri Di. The son-in-law of the highly revered megastar Rajnikanth, Dhanush dedicated his win to his parents as he received the award. The SIIMA Pride of Southern India (Female) prize went to Shruti Haasan, while the award's male counterpart was given to Rana Daggubati.

The first day also featured a fashion show by the designer Shravan Kumar. The 34-year-old, a favourite of the southern stars, themed his collection Flow of Clothing and Fashion in South Indian Cinema. The ramp was designed to look like a silver screen, and was graced by actors and actresses from the four South industries, including Rana Daggubbati, Diganth, Ajmal, Shriya Saran, Lakshmi Rai, Andrita Ray, Charmee and Richa Gangopadhya.

The second night of SIIMA 2012 got off to a delayed start as well. Stars were scheduled to walk the red carpet from 5.30pm but didn't actually start trickling in until about 7pm. The awards show itself started at 8pm (instead of 7pm), but all previous delays considered, that was a big achievement. There were a few technical glitches here and there, with mics and AV systems not working or synchronising, but the host, the actor-producer Madhavan, put everyone at ease. With an infectious smile and easy-going charm typically associated with him, Maddie, as he is affectionately referred to in the industry, joked with the audience and promised them a memorable show.

Co-hosting with Madhavan were the actresses Parvathy Omanakuttan and Lakshmi Manchu. The singer-composer Devi Sri Prasad rocked the stage with an amazing performance, while the Southern actresses Hansika, Amala Paul, Sameera Reddy and Shruti Hassan also performed various songs and medleys.

The list of nominees ran long, as there were almost 15 award categories covering each of the four industries, with five nominees for each award. Mahesh Babu's blockbuster Dookudu led the pack with 11 nominations in 10 categories including Best Actor, Best Director and Best Film.

The biggest cheers were drawn by the winners of the Best Actress categories. The awards went to Nayanthara (Telugu), Remya (Kannada), Kavya Madhavan (Malayalam), and Asin (Tamil). Asin made the Malayalis and Tamilians in the crowd go wild as she accepted her award in both languages. Shruti Hassan, who won Best Debutant Female in Telugu, also proved to have a lot of fans there that night, as the cheers and claps reverberated through the hall long after she had left the stage.

"I can't believe it," declared a breathless Priya Chandran who had come all the way from Al Ain to see her favourite stars in person. "I got to see Mahesh Babu, Khusbhu, Sri Devi, Asin, Madhavan and so many others, all in one night. I don't care where SIIMA is next year, I am definitely going to attend!"

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