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'Bollywood Oscars' begin in US with pirate-themed number, lots of star power

Indian film star Gulshan Grover poses for photographers as he walks the green carpet for 15th annual International Indian Film Awards Saturday, April 26, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

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Indian film star Gulshan Grover poses for photographers as he walks the green carpet for 15th annual International Indian Film Awards Saturday, April 26, 2014, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

TAMPA, Fla. - The Indian film industry's top awards show sailed into the U.S. with a pirate-themed opening musical number and celebrities ranging from "Slumdog Millionaire" star Anil Kapoor to John Travolta.

Before a crowd of some 20,000, the International Indian Film Academy awards, informally known as the "Bollywood Oscars," were being held in the United States for the first time Saturday.

Co-hosts Shahid Kapoor and Farhan Akhtar, dressed in swashbuckling outfits, demanded the key to host city Tampa, Florida, from Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who was sitting in the front row at the city's professional football stadium.

"I will give you this key if and only if you entertain us," said Buckhorn, after which Kapoor and Akhtar climbed onstage and proceeded to have a mock sword fight.

Later, Anil Kapoor introduced Buckhorn, who thanked the crowd with "namaste."

Before the show started, Travolta, Kevin Spacey and dozens of Indian film stars including Deepika Padukone walked past hordes of international media. Unlike the Academy Awards, IIFA uses a green carpet instead of a red one.

Travolta, who was to be honoured with an award, posed for photos with his arm around actress Priyanka Chopra.

During a packed news conference Saturday afternoon, the Oscar winner said he is currently considering a role in a Bollywood movie.

"I cannot deny music and dance in my life," he told reporters. "It is part of my soul. This is part of most of Bollywood's films, and I agree with it."

Also on Saturday afternoon, "House of Cards" star Spacey held a master acting class with Chopra.

When asked what he thought about Hollywood and Bollywood working together, Spacey made the crowd of 300 roar with his answer:

"Well, it's about (expletive) time," he said.

The awards cap off four days of well-attended events. The event has drawn the biggest Indian celebrities, including Padukone and Hrithik Roshan.

The contenders for Best Picture are Dhoom 3, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Krrish 3, Chennai Express, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Goliyon Ki Rasleela-Ramleela and Kai Po Che.

"Bollywood" is the term for the film industry based in Mumbai (Bombay). Although it is used mostly to refer to the lengthy song-and-dance movies in the Hindi language, it's become somewhat of a catchall term for Indian films. IIFA organizers say the Indian industry sells 3.6 billion movie tickets a year, about a quarter of them in the U.S.

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Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush

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