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Bollywood Oscars nominees a mix of pop entertainment and art

“And the Oscar for Best Picture goes to — 'The Fast and the Furious.' ”

That's not a line you're likely to hear at the Academy Awards, which historically shuns action films.

But in India's version of the Oscars, the blockbuster series of street racing movies starring Vin Diesel — No. 7 is due for release next April — would look right at home when they tear open the Best Picture envelope.

The tearing of those envelopes will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at Raymond James Stadium as the International Indian Film Academy brings its annual awards show to the United States for the first time.

Action movies are well represented among the films contending for top picture — as well as superhero films and romantic comedies.

The Indian film academy, Bollywood experts say, prizes pure entertainment as well as the art of cinema.

The awards show is a combination of the Oscars, MTV Movie Awards and People's Choice Awards, said Karn Dev, a journalist with Bollywood news site UrbanAsian.com.

“It has the elegance and big-name stars of the Oscars but adds a rock concert feel through major musical productions and puts the power of who wins in the hands of the fans,” Dev said.

Members of the Indian film academy and the film industry vote on the nominations, but a global audience picks the winners through online voting.

“It gives us a mix between critical acclaim and the opinion of millions of fans, which for us hold equal importance,” said Sabbas Joseph, director of the film academy.

“This show is all about the fans and honoring them,” Dev said. “Even if you've never seen a Bollywood film, it's worth watching.”

You can view Bollywood films through services such as Spuul and Netflix Bollywood. AMC Veterans 24 in Tampa shows them on a regular basis. The awards, though, will be shown only on the Hindi-language Stars Plus entertainment channel — and not until June 22. Check your cable or satellite service to see whether it offers Stars Plus.

Still, playing host gives people in Tampa a reason to educate themselves about Bollywood. Here's a breakdown from Dev and other Bollywood experts on the “Best Picture” nominees — with comparisons to Western films.

“Dhoom 3”: To avenge his father's death, a circus entertainer trained in magic and acrobatics turns thief to take down a corrupt bank in Chicago. Two cops from Mumbai are assigned to the case.

“This is our version of 'The Fast and the Furious,' series,” Dev said. “And this is the third installment. You're not watching this film for the story. You're watching for attractive people with lean and toned bodies and great action. And the films always have great music — upbeat stuff you tap your toes to the entire time.”

“Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani”: Two former classmates — a shy woman and a free-spirited man — fall in love while on a mountain trek.

“It's a 'When Harry Met Sally' type of romantic comedy,” said Asjad Nazir, who covers Bollywood for Eastern Eye, a weekly British newspaper focusing on Asian news.

“It's a great chick flick,” said Tampa native Roshi Patel, co-founder of UrbanAsian.com.

She added with a laugh, “It's my favorite film this year. But I'm a girl, so maybe guys have a different opinion.”

“Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela”: In a village infamous for its uninhibited manufacture and sale of arms and ammunition, a man and woman born into clans at odds with each other for 500 years fall in love.

“This is the classic Romeo and Juliet story but with a modern feel, like Leonardo DiCaprio's version,” Dev said.

Nazir chose to focus on lead actress Deepika Padukone, whose Hollywood equivalent, Nazio said, is current “It Girl,” Jennifer Lawrence.

“Both of these good-looking stars have made a mark in their respective industries in the past three years,” he said.

Padukone starred in two other movies up for Best Picture — “Chennai Express” and “Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani.”

“This is Deepika's year,” agreed UrbanAsian.com's Patel. “She's dominating the nominations.”

“Krrish 3”: In this third installment of a superhero franchise, Krrish and his scientist father have to save the world from a team of human-animal mutants.

“It's an 'X-Men' style superhero movie starring Bollywood's answer to Brad Pitt — Hrithik Roshan,” said Nazir said.

“This is India's biggest blockbuster at the moment,” said Patel. “This is the movie with all the merchandising behind it, with shirts and video games and you name it. The kids in India run around pretending to be Krrish. It's huge.”

“Kai Po Che”: Three friends growing up in India at the turn of the millennium set out to open a training academy to produce the country's next cricket stars.

“This is not a typical Bollywood movie,” said Nitish Rele, publisher of Tampa's Indian newspaper Khaas Baat. “It doesn't rely on star power or blockbuster scenes. It focuses solely on the story.”

The Tribune's experts couldn't come up with a Hollywood equivalent for “Kai Po Che,” except that it's like an indie film.

“This is like when a small independent film becomes so popular that it breaks into the mainstream,” said Rele. “It's awesome.”

“Chennai Express”: A 40-year-old bachelor embarks on a journey to a small town in Tamil Nadu to fulfill the last wish of his grandfather: to have his ashes immersed in the holy water of Rameshwaram. En route, he meets a woman from a unique family.

“This is Bollywood's equivalent to 'Knight and Day,' the Hollywood film that starred Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise,” said Dev. “Not because of the plot but the way it was made.”

Like the Cruise/Diaz film, explained Dev, it is an action and love story with light comedy that focuses more on the production value than the plot.

“It's entertaining,” he said. “It's meant to be fun.”

“Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”: The true story of world champion runner and Olympian Milkha Singh, who overcame the massacre of his family, civil war during the India-Pakistan partition and homelessness to become one of India's most iconic athletes.

“This is Bollywood's 'Chariots of Fire,' ” said Mahesh Patel, former host of Tampa's Radio Asia, which covered Bollywood and other aspects of Indian culture. “And not just because it is a racing movie. It also has a lot of the sequences that are similar, such as the way it was shot in slow motion at times. I think 'Chariots' inspired the director.”

“It has that underdog overcoming the odds theme,” he said.

“This is going to win the award,” Khaas Baat's Rele declared. “I am not making that prediction on insider knowledge, but as a fan. It is an amazing and inspiring movie.”

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