May 25 2016
Awards celebrating British/Asian artists breaks new ground and sees some special moments…
IT WAS AN EVENING of high spirits and camaraderie and much love.
For a change it was not about business or commerce, but art and entertainment and 21 individuals or groups were among the first to receive the newly inaugurated ACTA.
On Sunday (May 22), Eastern Eye newspaper hosted the first ever Arts, Culture and Theatre Awards (ACTA).
Held at the Royal Festival Hall in London’s Southbank Centre and delivered as part of the Alchemy Festival (running until May 30), the fledgling awards proved a big hit with its 700-plus audience – and naturally enough, with its winners.
Among the highlights of a two hour-plus awards ceremony and show, was a virtuoso tap dance performance by Phaldut Sharma, probably best known for his role as ‘AJ in the BBC soap, “Eastenders“.
An admirer of the Brat pack entertainer, Sammy Davis Jnr, who could tap a bit, Sharma’s own tap rendition to the global bhangra pop classic, “Mundian To Bach Ke” was electrifying and deserved an even bigger audience.
Also very memorable in a slightly lower key way was actor Dev Patel’s parents collecting the prize for best actor (film) on his behalf and hearing from his drama teachers who made an acceptance speech in his absence.
Nihal, the BBC Asian Network flagship morning talk show host, kept the proceedings lively as compere, and joyfully joshed with many of the presenters and winners.
Meera Syal was given the top accolade of the evening – the outstanding contribution to arts.
In a career that has spanned more than 20 years now, she is a trailblazer and an undoubted icon and prolific for writing, acting and performing.
Husband Sanjeev Bhaskar did not simply have a supporting role – he won what he said was his first acting award, clinching the actor (theatre) accolade for his lead role in the play, “Dinner with Saddam”, playing an Iraqi everyman caught up in the late dictator’s whimsical dining habits.
Bhaskar also shared his insights about diversity and progress in a special Q&A with Jude Kelly, the head of the Southbank Centre – a leading partner in helping to stage the ACTAs this year.
Among the other high profile names to win were Preeya Kalidas best actress (stage) for her role in the West End musical smash, “Bend it Like Beckham”.
Naughty Boy, aka Shahid Khan, not only presented an award but took one home for himself, collecting the best music award.
Oscar winner Asif Kapadia has another trophy to line up on his heaving shelf – wining the best director for his big screen documentary, “Amy”.
Nikesh Patel, one of the stars of the flagship period drama, “Indian Summers” on Channel 4, walked away with the best actor (TV) award.
While many of the above are well known, there was also for recognition for artists who are unsung stars of their field but rarely attract the acclaim they so richly deserve.
Actor Saeed Jaffrey, once so much a mainstay of television, film and stage in Britain, was given a posthumous editor’s award for his long career in Britain, the US and India.
His widow Jennifer collected the award on his behalf and said he would have been thrilled to have received the award and would have delighted in there being an ACTA. It was important to mentor and inspire the next generation she said, citing her husband’s commitment to helping young actors establish themselves.
Kathak dancer Nahid Siddiqui was presented with an editor’s award for her services to classical dance. The Pakistani born artist has been instrumental in breaking down barriers and has been an inspiration to many others in a long career that has seen her scale inestimable heights.
Guests also heard from columnist and chair of the judging panel, Amit Roy, about why the company behind the Eastern Eye ACTA, the Asian Media & Marketing company, had created the new awards in the first place. The company also hosts the Asian Business Awards every spring and the GG2 Leadership Awards, a celebration of ethnic talent and showcase of high-flyers in the community.
Roy said the arts remained the last frontier for many Asians.
“Although we are recognising certain individuals and organisations we are really honouring the South Asian artistic community as a whole.
“We have also recognised people who have done work inspired by South Asian culture,” he said, explaining the awards recognised work largely seen in the calendar year 2015.
His anecdote about being contacted a few years ago by a London-based India diplomat who had written a book and had asked him for his opinion was also highly telling and revealing.
Roy had said to the uncertain diplomat turned novelist: “There is a movie in this.”
The diplomat thought he was being humoured.
“The diplomat was Vikas Swarup, his novel was ‘Q&A’, and it was made into a movie by Film4 called ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.
“Vikas had never written before. I went to Los Angeles for the Oscars in 2009 hoping Slumdog would make history by picking up one Oscar. It swept the board with eight. So, you see anything is possible,” Roy explained.
Ed Vaizey, chief guest and minister of state at the department of culture, media and sport, and department for business, innovation and skills, with responsibility for digital industries, praised Asians working in the arts.
He said the country had much to be proud of, and said the government was committed to diversity in all facets.
“It’s about everyone being in the mainstream. It’s about seeing people from every part of our island represented in mainstream productions and even more importantly it’s about walking through a newsroom or walking through a set and seeing the people actually making the productions actually represent our society.”
He said there was some way to go but the ACTAs helped and called it a “really important milestone”.
Full list of winners below
*Sailesh Ram, editor www.asianculturevulture.com was on the judging panel of this year’s inaugural Eastern Eye ACTA
Nahid Siddiqui – http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/nahid-siddiqui-pakistans-kathak-supremo-review/
Meera Syal – http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/the-house-of-hidden-mothers-meera-syal-women-and-their-bodies-politic/
Saeed Jaffrey (obit) – http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/saeed-jaffrey-tributes-acting-genius-charming-man/
(funeral report) http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/saeed-jaffrey-friendship-love-and-warmth-remembered-at-funeral/
Nikesh Patel: http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/indian-summers-nikesh-patel-on-aafrin-from-boy-to-man/
Sanjeev Bhaskar: http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/dinner-with-saddam-review-comic-dig-at-iraq-folly/
Dev Patel: http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/dev-patel-certainly-second-best-sonny-richard-branson-connection/
Kiran Sonia Sawar: http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/murdered-by-my-father-tv-review-what-makes-a-loving-dad-turn-on-his-daughter/
Shobu Kapoor: http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/bbc-sitcom-returns-with-effevescent-community-leader/
Preeya Kalidas: http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/bend-it-like-beckham-the-musical-review-melting-hearts-and-minds/
Asif Kapadia: http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/cannes-2015-amy-review-when-angels-still-weep/
Dara – http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/dara-fighting-soul-islam/
Bajirao Mastani: http://asianculturevulture.com/portfolios/bajirao-mastani-deepika-padukone-and-ranveer-singh-reveal-how-they-got-into-historical-characters/