In the middle of her multiple-costume dance routine at the Bollywood Movie Awards over Memorial Day weekend, actress Soha Ali Khan yanked two friends onstage. Mike Lundberg and Lucas Bailey knew her from grad school at the London School of Economics. (They shimmied about the stage uncomfortably, displaying bad-dancer overbite.) Ali Khan had invited them to the ninth annual awards, held far from Mumbai at the Nassau Coliseum, and suddenly they were in front of 10,000 fans.
Actually, make that a billion. This smallish event, started by a former airline pilot named Kamal Dandona who lives in Old Westbury, on Long Island, to celebrate Bollywood films and entertain an expatriate audience, has wormed its way onto Sony Entertainment Television Asia’s networks. Dandona’s goal? To make it as “mainstream as the Latin Music Awards or the BET Awards,” he says, backing that claim to B-list legitimacy by wrangling Danny Glover to be awarded Outstanding Contribution to Global Entertainment, and The Namesake’s Mira Nair to get the Pride of India award. But the real stars were the ones from the subcontinent that few in the U.S. had ever heard of. Ali Khan’s brother Saif won for Best Actor in a Negative Role. Bipasha Basu did her limb-twirling dance act. Vivek Oberoi boogied for half an hour, to a medley of his hits.
Plus two nobodies. “My first instinct was to run out of the arena, but I didn’t want to embarrass her,” says Bailey. Lundberg says, “When I was walking up, someone was doing backflips across the front of the stage. I wasn’t going to be able to do that, so I started trying to do my own thing.” Afterward, they learned about the Sony Asia broadcast. “Really? A billion?” said Bailey. They looked at each other. Lundberg said, “I wish you hadn’t told us that.”