TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Indian film industry's top award show sailed into Tampa Saturday with a pirate-themed opening musical number and celebrities ranging from "Slumdog Millionaire" star Anil Kapoor to John Travolta.
Before a crowd of some 20,000, the International Indian Film Academy awards started with the entrance of actors aboard a float built like a pirate ship. The show informally known as the "Bollywood Oscars" are being held in the United States for the first time.
Co-hosts Shahid Kapoor and Farhan Akhtar, dressed in swashbuckling outfits, demanded the key to Tampa from Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who was sitting in the front row at the city's NFL stadium.
"I will give you this key if and only if you entertain us," said Mayor Buckhorn, after which Kapoor and Akhtar climbed onstage and proceeded to have a mock sword fight.
Later, Anil Kapoor introduced Buckhorn, who thanked the crowd with "namaste."
"They said we couldn't do this. They said Tampa was too small. They said, 'Where's Tampa?'" Buckhorn said. "Welcome to the greatest city in America."
Before the show started, Travolta, Kevin Spacey and dozens of Indian film stars including Deepika Padukone walked slowly past hordes of international media outside the stadium. Unlike the Academy Awards, IIFA uses a green carpet instead of a red one.
Travolta, who was to be honored with an award, posed for photos with his arm around actress Priyanka Chopra.
During a packed news conference Saturday afternoon, the Oscar winner said he is currently considering a role in a Bollywood movie.
"I cannot deny music and dance in my life," he told reporters. "It is part of my soul. This is part of most of Bollywood's films and I agree with it."
Also on Saturday afternoon, "House of Cards" star Kevin Spacey held a master acting class with Chopra.
When asked what he thought about Hollywood and Bollywood working together, Spacey made the crowd of 300 roar with his answer:
"Well, it's about (expletive) time," he said.
The awards cap off four days of well-attended events, much to the delight of Tampa tourism authorities and lovers of Indian film and culture. The event has drawn the biggest Indian celebrities, including Deepika Padukone, Anil Kapoor and Hrithik Roshan.
The contenders for Best Picture are Dhoom 3, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Krrish 3, Chennai Express, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Goliyon Ki Rasleela-Ramleela and Kai Po Che.
"Bollywood" is the term for the film industry based in Mumbai (Bombay). Although it is used mostly to refer to the lengthy song-and-dance movies in the Hindi language, it's become somewhat of a catchall term for Indian films. IIFA organizers say the Indian industry sells 3.6 billion movie tickets a year, about a quarter of them in the U.S.
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