Karan Johar The master of melodramatic family-centric films. His debut, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, centred on a dead mother who leaves behind a letter for her eight-year-old daughter, begging her to kindle a romance between the girl's father and his best female friend from college. The movie shattered box-office records in 1998, and since then Johar has delivered more hits - including 2001's Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (on the romance-meets-disapproving-parents theme) and 2006's Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (on the unusually bold topic of adultery). His latest film, My Name Is Khan, is a departure: It focuses on the repercussions of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, on Muslims in America. That doesn't mean it isn't over-the-top and overacted, but it has earned Johar a nomination for best film at IIFA. (Also of note: Johar's obsession with the letter K - in his film titles, and his favourite stars, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol).
Prakash Jha This director is known for gripping sociopolitical commentaries. From indentured labourers to female oppression and political corruption, Jha is unafraid to tackle topics uncomfortable to many Indians. Raajneeti, his film nominated at IIFA, is a modernized political interpretation of a Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, about warring families.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali His trademark is the artsy, stylized, fantasy film with an oddball plotline - as close as you can get to art-house without losing your Bollywood cred. Bhansali's film Guzaarish, for instance, follows a magician who is paralyzed, and must fight in court for the right to be euthanized.
Bollywood has a tendency to be clannish, and while there are a few exceptions (Shah Rukh Khan, for one), it helps to be part of a star family dynasty. The two biggies: The Bachchans and the Kapoors.
The Bachchans are the first family of Bollywood. Amitabh and his wife, Jaya, who started their careers in the seventies, are both powerful actors. Their son Abhishek appears to be riding on their coattails - but with less success. He's popular with directors, but his films generally fail to create box-office buzz. His wife, Aishwarya Rai, strongly divides audiences between those who think she's a plastic beauty queen and those who laud her. As for IIFA, when it launched 12 years ago Amitabh was its brand ambassador, but he wasn't at last year's event in Sri Lanka, and he's tweeted that he won't attend the Toronto splash-out.
Enter the Kapoors, another long-standing dynasty from Punjab, which has a reputation for more populist films. Its patriarch, Raj Kapoor, is the original showman of Bollywood - an actor, director and producer, he has been compared to Charlie Chaplin. He died in 1998 but his legacy lives on through two of his grandchildren: Kareena and Ranbir Kapoor, both nominated for their work at IIFA. IIFA has also teamed up with the Toronto International Film Festival for a tribute and retrospective on the senior Kapoor: Three generations of the family are expected to descend on Toronto next week.
THE IT GIRL
Of this year's IIFA noms for best actress, Katrina Kaif is the standout. The British-Indian actress is best known for her gorgeous figure and her willingness to show it off without clothing. But the 26-year-old also surprised audiences with her restrained performance - and, despite a heavy British accent, her flawless Hindi speeches - as a female politician in the political drama Raajneeti. Of course, Kaif wouldn't be a real Bollwyood It Girl without a scintillating Bollywood dance "item": Her moves onscreen in the number Sheila ki jawani have made the song a music-chart scorcher.
THE IT BOY
It's tough to displace Shah Rukh Khan. But relative newcomer Ranbir Kapoor (yes, of that Kapoor family) earned instant fame both by dropping his towel for a nude scene in his film debut and, since then, showing a willingness to experiment with a wide range of roles. He's nominated for best actor at IIFA for playing a political mastermind in Raajneeti. The 28-year-old Punjabi actor also generates talk with his private life: a high-profile romance with Bollywood belle Deepika Padukone that ended in a split, as well as rumours of dates with several other actresses.
HOLLYWOOD, MEET BOLLYWOOD
The Brangelina of Bollywood: Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan
He's Bollywood royalty. She's a great Bollywood beauty. Like the Hollywood couple, though, they might just be most famous for their romance. As for their acting chops: Mohit Rajhans, the host of film show Bollywood Boulevard on Toronto's OMNI Television, claims Rai's talent is questionable and that Bachchan takes the prize for most overrated Bollywood actor.
The Robert Downey Jr. of Bollywood: Salman Khan
He's a popular darling, but Salman Khan is also Bollywood's biggest bad boy. Onscreen, his roles have included the muscled, tough-on-crime cop in the mega-grossing Dabangg; off-screen, he's been on the other side of the law thanks to an arrest for allegedly poaching a chinkara (an endangered gazelle) and was charged with negligent driving in a hit-and-run case. Khan's romances are equally controversial: His string of famous exes includes the now-married Aishwarya Rai, with whom he seems to have an ongoing spat, and leggy star Katrina Kaif. He stays out of the official limelight, however, preferring not to engage with India's paparazzi.
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