By Jim Avila & Serena Marshall
Its glam, spectacular and over the top movie-making, made famous in the United States by the 2008 Oscar-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire.”
And now Bollywood comes to America as part of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) award show hosted this year in Tampa, Florida. The spectacle, which attracted 30,000 attendees, also attracting American stars including Kevin Spacey and John Travolta.
“I find the Indian films very original in energy in life,” Travolta said at an IIFA press conference. “It captures your attention differently than other films, but there is a universal theme that cannot be denied—so yes, I am a very big fan of the Indian films.”
Travolta is one of India’s favorite American actors because of his dancing in movies like “Grease,” “Hairspray,” and of course “Saturday Night Fever.”
The big Bollywood fan base gathered the sunshine state along with Bollywood’s biggest stars, like Priyanka Chopra and Anil Kapoor, to their green carpet and filled a football stadium with mostly American, out of their minds, fans to celebrate Indian film at their version of the Oscars, which will air June 8 on the Star World Network and is expected to draw 800 million viewers in 110 countries.
Bollywood with its monster sellers is in fact seen by more movie goers than Hollywood’s blockbusters. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce more than 3 billion tickets sold each year, while the Motion Picture Association of America estimates on average 1.3 billion tickets are sold in North America.
India hoping its formula of less violence, less sex, more romance and dancing will capture a new American audience, too.
“Bollywood is extremely popular all over the world. its getting more and more popular,” Viraf Sarkari, the show Director and Director of Wizcraft International Entertainment told ABC News. “I’ve seen lots of foreigners all over the world wanting to learn Bollywood dancing, they love the Bollywood music. they love watching the films.”
Stars of Hollywood may be held to a different standard in America, but it is nothing compared to treatment in Bollywood.
“They are demi-gods our stars,” Sarkari said. “People worship the floor they walk on… like we have a star that is one of the biggest stars in India called Rajesh Khanna and the kind of star following he has…they have built temples for him in south India that people go and worship.”
According to New Delhi Television, Rajesh Khanna’s residence outside of New Delhi was transformed into a shrine by mourning fans following his death.
One of India’s biggest stars, Deepika Padukone, also came to the United States as part of the awards show, and she may be the biggest movie star you never heard of.
“She couldn’t walk down the street of Bombay,” Sarkari said. “She would be mobbed. Completely mobbed.”
Indian actors made so popular by the key to Bollywood movies—the dance numbers, getting bigger and bigger every time the curtain rises.
And the man largely responsible for the splash and dash that is Bollywood, Shiamak Davar, or as he likes to be called: the guru of Indian dance. He has even directed dance numbers in American movies including “Mission Impossible 4.”
And now Shiamak, he goes by one name, like Oprah, is directing the seven musical numbers that dominate the IIFA awards, allowing “Nightline” to follow along through rehearsals.
As he cajoles, coaches, disciplines and praises his dancers.
“They think we’re mad with these things. I like it,” Davar said as he demonstrated the over-the-top cosumes and props. “They think that Bollywood has gone completely nuts, but this is Shiamak Bollywood—interesting and mad.”
But for Bollywood, it is all part of culture.
“I think, you know, our festivals are full of song and dance, our marriages are full of song and dance…so everything is about street dance, festival dancing, a lof of dancing,” Davar said. “It’s fantasy, it’s big, it’s wild…and every time I have to make it bigger and better…I have to outshine myself for the next award and the next award, because I’m not happy unless I do a good job for every show.”
Shiamak has choreographed everything from dance numbers in Bollywood hits, to other award shows like the Commonwealth game’s opening and closing ceremonies, and he agreed to take ABC News back stage for exclusive behind the scenes to see what it takes to put on the show.
He designed all the wardrobes and the props, too, his dance troupe brought more than 140 bags of costumes on their trip from Mumbai, to outfit 90 Indian dancers.
What’s the style?
“Very Indian, very Bollywood, very glitch, very sheek, also very loud,” Davar said. “Very sexy….you can go skimpy, but I’m very particular about not looking vulgar.”
And the color isn’t far behind.
“Bollywood is part of us, we are loud, we are ostentatious, we are bollywood. We are big,” he said.