Came the first round of awards, freshly introduced for the Southern categories presented by Manikchand for the Best Technician, Best Playback Singer (Male or Female), Best Choregorapher and Best Newcomer (again, irrespective of gender).

The Best Technician Award was won hands-down by Santosh Sivan for his eye-dazzling cinematography in Iruvar. The trophy was presented by the techno-whiz director Shankar.

The Best Choreographer Award was bagged by the feisty and petite Brinda for the Telugu film Premichukundam Raa. The trophy was handed over by actress Khushboo who requested that she should do the honours since she has known Brinda for years and has been boogie-directed by her.

The Best Playback Singer Award went to Mano for his mellifluous renditions in the Telugu film Pelli. Gentleman producer KT Kunjomon handed over the trophy.

The unquestionable winner of the Best Newcomer Award was none other than the Tere Mere Sapne dream-girl, Simran, who made a splash in the South with the Tamil hits VIP and Nerukku Ner. Her forerunner, Naghma, who had made a similar switch from the Mumbai to the South films, presented the statuette. Actually, Simran, had our hearts in our mouth since she was stuck in the late evening traffic. But she made it in the nick of time, and looked so elegant that we forgot about our anxiety cramps instantly.

Next: Ayesha Jhulka's dhamaka act. Moving to the magic beat of AR Rahman songs, she wow-wowed the audience with her nifty footwork and body mambo choreographed by Sanjay Pradhan aka Lollipop (yeah, he's sweet). And just as Ayesha and dancers were performing to the beat of Vande Mataram, who should walk into the auditorium, but bhai Rahman himself.