Bollywood awards begin in Bangkok

IIFA weekend in begins with 'Sakar Raj' world premiere

BANGKOK -- The ninth annual International Indian Film Academy awards, Bollywood's top film honors, kicked off a weekend of events Friday in Bangkok, with the world premiere of "Sarkar Raj," directed by Ram Gopal Varma.

A sequel to the 2005 hit "Sarkar" (an Indian homage to "The Godfather"), "Sarkar Raj" stars three members of the "first family of Indian cinema" -- legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan, his son Abhishek Bachchan and the younger Bachchan's wife, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Miss World 1994.

A "green" carpet led ecologically minded luminaries to the premiere and awards ceremony, and Bollywood fans screamed at the arrival of the cast and other Indian stars such as Apoorva Lakhia, David Dhawan and Mika Singh.

Varma and the Bachchans all spoke at a press conference immediately after the screening at Siam Paragon, the popular luxury shopping center located in the middle of the Thai capital.

The weekend will continue with a fashion show Saturday night and, on Sunday, a global business forum where climate change scientist Rajendra K. Pachauri, a winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, will be awarded the IIFA Global Leadership Award.

Films in competition include "Guru," "Chak de India," "Om Shanti Om," "Life ... in a Metro" and "Jab We Met."