Aamir Khan's much talked about home production Peepli Live has been named the Best First Feature Film at the recently concluded 31st Durban International Film Festival.
Helmed and written by Anusha Rizvi in her first directorial venture, the film is a satire on the farmers' suicides and subsequent media and political response in India.
"South Africa is very lucky for me and I hope that luck extends to Peepli Live as well," Aamir Khan said from Mumbai today.
The 45-year-old actor's film Lagaan, which went on to get an Oscar nomination also had its world premiere at Sun City in South Africa.
"Peepli Live has been very well received at all the major film festivals. It has already been at the Sundance Film Festival and was the first Indian film to be selected for the competition section there. Then we were at the Berlin Film Festival and in the UK; and then at the Durban Film Festival we won the award," Aamir said.
Filmmakers from around the world took the spotlight at the 31st Durban film fest which was held from 22 July to 1 August.
Well-known for his rejection of the various Indian film industry awards and staying away from them even when his films win multiple awards, Aamir was elated after the film bagged the honour.
"I think it's really wonderful news that I got today. To get an award from such a distinguished jury leaves me very pleased for the team that we have won this honour," Aamir said.
The jury comprised producers Aihara Hiromi of Japan; Christoph Thoke of Germany and South African academic, writer and producer Bhekizizwe Peterson.
"This one is different. It is an award from people who are film people and filmmakers, so it means a lot. The film shows how in society we tend to concentrate and focus all our energies and all our wealth and resources towards the cities.
"This effectively leans towards people who are more privileged and in the process we leave out those who are less privileged, in rural areas and villages," Aamir said.
Peepli Live stars Omkar Das Manikpuri, Raghubir Yadav, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Naseeruddin Shah and Malaika Shenoy in the main roles.
"The recognition at the Durban Film Festival is likely to give a boost to attempts to get a wider audience for the film, although this was likely to be a more difficult task than usual in India. I think the creative team has done a sterling job and now it's my responsibility as the producer to get as large an audience as we can. It is an unusual film for cinemas in India, but I'm trying to put all the strengths that I have behind this film," Aamir said.
"I was so looking forward to that, but unfortunately could not make it because of other commitments," he said of the expectations created that he would be putting in an appearance at the Durban film fest. Apologising to his South African fans for his absence, Aamir thanked them for all the "love and affection over the years and the support for his films."
"I have very fond memories of my visits to South Africa and the interaction with the fans when Salman (Khan) and I had a show there. I hope to come back soon," he said.
For several years now, Aamir has released a film during December, such as Taare Zameen Par, Ghajini and 3 Idiots last year. But the coming year, things would be different.
"My next release after Peepli Live, which releases worldwide on 13 August, will be Dhobhi Ghaat, which will release in January 2011. It is a film that has been written and directed by my wife Kiran Rao, and I am acting in it," he said.
Peepli Live will be distributed in South Africa by the Avalon Group from August 13.