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Indo-Pak romance triumphs at Bollywood Oscars
Updated: 2005-06-12 13:02

A Romeo and Juliet romance between an Indian pilot and his Pakistani sweetheart triumphed at the Bollywood Oscars awards ceremony held in Amsterdam.

"Veer Zaara" which Saturday won the best film prize and earned Yash Chopra a best director's award is a a timely tale of cross-cultural love as India and Pakistan engage in a little relationship-warming themselves.

All the Bollywood glitterati descended on Amsterdam late Saturday for the annual awards ceremony of the Indian cinema industry's "oscars" which was beamed across the globe to an estimated 400 million television viewers.

Since 2000, the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) has staged the extravaganza abroad to raise the international profile of its home-grown "made in Bombay" movie industry. India is the world's biggest film producer at around 1,000 features a year, even if the budgets are no match for Hollywood.

"Veer Zaara," the two names of the film's young lovers -- took six awards in all, with leading man Shahrukh Khan scooping the best actor award and Rani Mukherji picking up the supporting actress prize.

While the film missed out on the best actress award, Mukherji didn't, who picked up the main female acting prize for her performance in another love story Hum Tum (You and Me).

Khan's win was no surprise as the Bollywood superstar, India's answer to Tom Cruise -- was nominated for best actor for his roles in three of the most fancied films.

"Veer Zaara", which was released last year, also won in the best music direction and best story categories.

Former Miss World Aishwarya Rai and veteran Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan, Indian cinema's "star of stars", were among those taking part in the ceremony.

"Amsterdam is a gateway to Europe for Indian cinema," said Bachchan, who arrived on stage on a bicycle. He was not too upset to have lost in the best supporting actor category. His son Abhishek Bachchan won that prize for his role in 'Yuva'.

On an unusually cold June night, sequinned saris and banghra music helped give the Amsterdam football stadium, filled with 10,000 spectators, a sub-continental atmosphere for the night.

Many in the crowd originated from Surinam, a former Dutch colony north of Brazil which was home to many Indians in the late 19th century. Some 200,0000 people of Hindu origin live in the Netherlands.

"Imagine, it is like all of Hollywood landing up in Amsterdam for a weekend," joked actor Bachchan, 62, who was earlier treated to an official reception with Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende as the Netherlands anticipates a windfall of 20 million euros for hosting the event.

In the stadium each appearing film star was met with a crescendo of applause and cries of joy from the enthusiastic crowd

"What an event for us. It's fantastic to see all these actors here because we watch them every week in Bollywood movies," said Sandhya, a 28-year-old secretary, who attended the gala event with her whole family.

"We have bought new clothes -- saris -- for the occasion," she added before grabbing her camera to snap another of her favourite stars.

Nearby an American couple of Indian origin were enjoying the event as a highlight of their European holiday.

Amsterdam mayor Job Cohen said the Bollywood Oscar event would help Indian cinema "grow from homeviewing to mainstream theater in Europe".

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