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Big test for Bollywood at British Oscars

London, Feb. 23: This was a big night for Bollywood in Britain at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) awards in London, with Devdas nominated for Best Foreign Film.

The ceremony was being held at the Odeon in Leicester Square, with Bollywood and British-Asian stars mixing with the most glamourous from Hollywood.

But Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s blockbuster is up against tough competition, with the other nominees being And Your Mother Too (Y Tu Mama Tambien), City of God (Cidade Deus), Talk to Her (Hable con Ella) and The Warrior.

The Hindi-language The Warrior, directed by London-based Asif Kapadia and starring Bollywood actor Irfan Khan, was Britain’s entry for the Oscars in the Best Foreign Language category but was rejected by the Americans on the grounds that its language (six minutes of Hindi dialogue) is not native to Britain and the film was not British enough.

But 30-year-old Kapadia has been nominated here in another category. The Warrior is up for the Alexander Korda Award for the Outstanding British Film of the Year, where it is up against Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham, Dirty Pretty Things, and The Hours.

Bafta, which likes to think of itself as the British equivalent of the Oscars, has been keen for some time to recognise the astonishing growth of the Bollywood market in Britain. Thanks to the support of the Asian community in Britain, Bollywood movies — Devdas, Lagaan and K3G are notable examples — get routinely into the mainstream British box office top 10.

As for Kapadia, he is seen as one of the rising stars of British cinema. In the Evening Standard film awards earlier this month, he was named most promising newcomer.

Kapadia will be disappointed if he does not win something. He has been nominated, as director/co-writer, in a third category: the Carl Foreman award for special achievement by a director, screen writer or producer in his first feature film.

As for the other categories in the Bafta awards, Hollywood, as usual, dominates. The Best Film will be a choice from Chicago, Gangs of New York, The Hours, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Pianist.

The Best Actress award will go to one of the following: Halle Berry, Salma Hayek, Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Renee Zellwegger.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, who is fighting a high court action over the publication of her wedding pictures in Hello!, has been nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Chicago.

Michael Caine (The Quiet American), Daniel Day-Lewis (Gangs of New York) and Jack Nicholson (About Schmidt) are among nominees for Best Actor.

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