TAMPA - The biopic of a sprinter who survived India's partition but fell short in his most famous race swept Bollywood's awards Sunday in a party that brought US stars to the dance floor.
"Bhaag Milka Bhaag," the story of Olympian Milka Singh, took the prizes for best picture, best director and best actor at the International Indian Film Academy awards in a marathon gala at a packed stadium in Tampa, Florida, in the event's first time in the United States.
Director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra dedicated the prize to the now 84-year-old Singh, who took the stage and said: "This goes to the boys and girls of India, who deserve to win the gold." Singh was born in what is now Pakistan and watched as his family, including both of his parents, were slaughtered in the communal bloodbath that engulfed India as it was partitioned along religious lines at independence in 1947.
He discovered running while in the army and was recruited to race for India at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. The turbaned Singh took on the nickname "the Flying Sikh" after a remark by Pakistan's then leader Ayub Khan.
Singh had been a favourite in the 400-meter final but slipped behind after a promising start, ending fourth. Still, he is considered an athletic legend in India, which rarely performs well in international competitions other than cricket.
"He lost the most important race of his life, but he won in life," director Mehra said.
Farhan Akhtar, one of the hosts of the awards ceremony, won best actor for the role. Singh said that watching the movie - which translates as "Run, Milkha, Run" - marked one of the three times in life that he cried along with his parents' death and his Olympic failure.
Best leading actress went to Deepika Padukone, who was nominated for three films. She won for "Chennai Express," an action film in which she stars opposite superstar Shah Rukh Khan who skipped the Tampa awards to concentrate on a movie shoot.
The romantic musical sequel "Aashiqui 2" swept all four prizes for music.