Here's a fun fact illustrating how little the typical U.S. moviegoer knows about the finalists for the International Indian Film Academy's shiniest prize:
The total North American box office receipts for this year's IIFA best picture nominees — all seven of them — is less than $25 million.
More tickets were sold domestically for one Oscar honoree — the original screenplay winner Her — than for Bollywood's most acclaimed 2013 releases combined.
In other words, good luck filling out that IIFA office pool, if one's even offered.
There are clues to predicting winners, though. Movies garnering the most IIFA nominations typically dominate the results, including best picture. At last year's event in Macao, the romantic comedy Barfi! grabbed 14 prizes after a whopping 21 nominations. The road trip dramedy Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara took home nine awards in 2012, and the action flick Dabangg was voted 10 prizes in 2011, each after leading the pack in overall nominations.
Viewed in that light, the odds-on favorite Saturday night is Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, leading all contenders with 10 nominations in what IIFA deems "popular" categories, including acting and music. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag already earned nine "technical" awards (including cinematography, sound and editing) when those winners were announced in February.
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is the true story of Olympic runner Milkha Singh, a national hero played by best actor nominee Farhan Akhtar, who appears to be the favorite in that category.
In competition among female leads, Deepika Padukone is favored simply by corralling half of the category's nominations. Padukone's performances fill three slots, with the Romeo and Juliet-inspired Goliyon Ki Rasleela-Ramleela appearing to be her strongest entry.
Ram-Leela (as it's also known) is tied with the star-is-born musical drama Aashiqui 2, with seven popular nominations overall.
Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.