- Associated Press - Sunday, June 26, 2011

TORONTO (AP) - “Dabangg,” a tale about a corrupt police officer, dominated the 12th International Indian Film Academy awards, snagging six prizes including best picture at the star-studded event in Toronto _ held on North American soil for the first time.

“My Name is Khan” also scooped up several top honors at the five-hour award bash that started Saturday night and rolled over into early Sunday. Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan took the prize for leading male role for the film, about the treatment of Muslims in a world of heightened suspicions following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Khan played the family’s Muslim patriarch who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. The film, nominated in seven categories, also took home the prize for best direction and best story. Khan was handed his award by Bollywood superstar Anil Kapoor and two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank, who congratulated Bollywood for helping to unite the world through film.

“Hollywood and Indian cinema must bring the world closer together,” said Swank, draped in a glittering sleeveless deep red gown. “I believe in IIFA’s vision _ one people, one world.”

Another Academy Award winner, Cuba Gooding Jr. presented the best director award to Karan Johar for “My Name is Khan,” declaring that he was impressed by the power of Indian films around the world.

“I think it’s absolutely wonderful how India has traveled the world of entertainment and I would love to play and be a part of a Bollywood movie myself,” said Gooding, who broke out into a few dance moves.

“Dabangg” led the awards tally sweeping trophies in the music category in Toronto’s packed Rogers Centre, filled with more than 22,000 Bollywood fans and stars. The hit took the prize for best playback singer female, best playback singer male and best music director. A playback singer pre-records songs so Bollywood actors can lip sync to them in their films. “Dabangg” star Sonu Sood won for best performance in a negative role. The film also garnered the awards for best screenplay and for best female debut which went to Sonakshi Sinha for her role in the film as Sood’s love interest.

Anushka Sharma won the best female lead for her role as an assistant to a wedding planner in “Band Baaja Baaraat,” a film about the world of wedding planning. Arjun Rampal took home the best male supporting prize for the political thriller “Raajneeti,” and best supporting female role award went to Prachi Desai for “Once Upon a Time in Mumbai.”

Kangana Ranaut, the model turned actress, gave the night’s first performance with her fellow “Double Dhamaal” actors Arshad Warsi, Javeed Jaffrey and Ashish Chaudry. The film was one of several that premiered during the IIFA weekend.

A lifetime achievement award was given to Dharmendra Deol, patriarch of the Deol dynasty, who received the special award for his 55-year-long career. Dharmendra’s sons, Sunny and Bobby Deol, Bollywood stars in their own right, performed with their father for the first time on stage to a song from their film “Yamla, Pagla, Deewane.”

Outstanding achievement in Indian cinema went to Sharmila Tagore, who has starred in such films as “Mera Sapnon Ki Rani,” “Namkeen,” and “Chingari,” and has spent 52 years in the industry. Tagore’s son is the popular Bollywood star Saif Ali Khan. She said her son wanted to attend the weekend festivities, but couldn’t because they are both finishing films.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty gave a speech at the ceremony, which also saw a number of energy-packed Bollywood dance numbers and tributes, capping the three days of festivities. McGuinty lured the IIFA to the city by pledging $12.25 million.

Roughly 16,000 of the 22,000 tickets to the awards ceremony available to the public sold out in minutes. Those lucky enough to get seats were charged between $49 and $126, while resellers offered last-minute tickets online for more than $1,500 each.

Launched in 2000 at the Millennium Dome in London, the annual IIFA awards have traveled around the world in the hopes of exposing the genre to various audiences and opening trade markets.

Holding the event in Toronto was a strategic move as India’s cinematic royalty makes a bid for a piece of the North American box office. Held previously in Amsterdam, Sri Lanka, Macau, London, Malaysia, Dubai, Singapore, Bangkok and Johannesburg, IIFA is capitalizing on the already huge Bollywood following in Toronto, which has an estimated population of nearly 700,000 South Asians.

“For the first time in its 12-year history, IIFA makes its North American debut, and its biggest stars are you,” Kapoor said in a mix of English, Hindi and Punjabi while pointing to the audience. “Thank you Ontario. Thank you so much for making us feel the warmth in Canada.”

Organizers say more than 200 filmmakers and actors came from overseas in the bid to gain inroads into the North American market and build production partnerships.

The awards gala is considered India’s biggest media event and one of world’s most-watched televised spectacles, with hundreds of millions of viewers tuning in.