Bollywood can give Hollywood lessons in making award shows entertaining, judging from Friday's Magic of the Movies and Technical Awards at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre.
Lesson No. 1: Don't cram everything into one night. The International Indian Film Academy is saving the best for tonight's finale at Raymond James Stadium, when the star-studded "popular" categories will be decided. Bringing us to …
Lesson No. 2: Don't worry so much about artists who aren't celebrities. IIFA declared winners in crafts like cinematography and sound mixing nearly two months ago, leaving lots of time Friday for music and dancing, boisterously performed with nothing but entertainment on the line.
That's lesson No. 3 for the Oscars, where fun often goes to die.
Of course, there are lessons IIFA could take from the Oscars, like red (or in this case, green) carpet management and clockwork timing. Not hurrying is as foreign to Americans as Deepika Padukone, but seems to work for stars on IIFA holiday.
The show's planned 7 p.m. start never had a chance, while an estimated crowd of 6,000 fans waited. Even co-host Vir Das arrived 45 minutes past that time. And he was among the first wave of luminaries.
Part of the delay was heightened security that called for all vehicles entering the backstage area to be inspected by bomb-sniffing dogs while officers on horseback watched over the dropoff area.
As night fell, the star quotient rose dramatically, among them Bollywood actors Sonu Sood and Sridevi, Miss America Nina Davuluri, even a Baldwin brother (Stephen). The crowd chanted the name of India's Olympic hero, Milkha Singh, subject of the night's big winner, Bhaag Milkha Bhagg.
The show finally began a few minutes before 9, with Das and Saif Ali Khan kicking off the evening with comedy, mostly in Hindi, followed by heartthrob Farhan Akhtar performing the evening's first song, backed by impressive lighting effects. Akhtar played Singh in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, giving him a hug during the song.
Within an hour, fans were dancing away the delay, shimmying to the tones of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in the upper regions of the amphitheater.
Friday's centerpiece was a tribute to singer Khan, for his Bollywood playback recordings topping Indian pop charts. Think of Kenny Loggins' '80s soundtrack success but with an exotic, ethereal sound. Raised in a musically royal family, Khan began performing at age 3, carrying on a tradition of Qawwali, devotional hymns for Muslim Sufis.
Khan, 40, is known to U.S. audiences through his work on the soundtracks of the Academy Award winner Dead Man Walking — collaborating with Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder — and 2002's The Four Feathers, alongside Oscar winning composer James Horner. Khan also added his distinctive tones to Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, and a track on the Derek Trucks Band album Joyful Noise.
Between musical numbers, winners in 14 technical categories picked up trophies they were promised in February. Leading the pack was the fact-based sports drama Bhaag Milkha Bhaag with nine awards including screenplay, cinematography, editing, costumes and two sound categories.
Friday's award hoarding plus 10 "popular" nominations, leading all contenders for today's awards, make Bhaag Milkha Bhaag the odds-on favorite to win the best picture prize.
Trophies were also presented Friday to the superhero adventure Krrish 3 (best action, visual effects), and Chennai Express for best song recording and sound mixing, in a tie with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
Times staff writer Caitlin E. O'Conner contributed to this report. Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.