Going Bollywood

The house was packed, 12,000 strong, for the fourth annual Bollywood Awards. At the food kiosks in the lobby, patrons lined up for jalebi, aloo vada and samosa chole. Onstage, Indian TV chat maven Ruby Bhatia provided hyperbolic introductions ("His immense talent is about to unfold on this very stage!") to a dozen or so Indian musical acts that whipped the crowd into a cheerful frenzy. And subcontinental film celebrities came by to accept awards in such categories as Best Villain, Best Comic and Most Sensational Female.

Indian pop cinema—that exotic, rhapsodic blend of smiles and tears, song...

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