IIFA kicks off New York awards ex­trav­a­ganza

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

The In­ter­na­tional In­dian Film Academy fired the open­ing salvo in a week­end of glitz, glamor and mu­sic for its an­nual awards, send­ing fans wild with ex­cite­ment by host­ing Bol­ly­wood stars in Times Square. Hun­dreds of peo­ple-over-whelm­ingly South Asians joined by be­mused on­look­ers, con­fused tourists and a smat­ter­ing of Western con­verts to Bol­ly­wood cheered a fash­ion show and shrieked in de­light when ac­tors Shahid Kapoor blew kisses and Varun Dhawan per­formed on stage.

The crowd turned into a sea of cam­era phones and raised arms, a taste of the ex­cite­ment build­ing among In­dian cin­ema fans in New York, the heart of a tri-state area home to around 1.8 mil­lion In­dian-Amer­i­cans. "It's so nice, I feel so proud," beamed Nee­lam Singh, a 47-year-old soft­ware con­sul­tant and mother of one. "It looks like a mini In­dia," she said of the so­called IIFA "Stomp" party in Times Square. Liv­ing in the United States for more than 20 years, she and her girl­friends have been plan­ning what to wear for weeks, some jetting in from as far as At­lanta and Panama in the hopes of see­ing their idols.

Events kick off in earnest Fri­day with a con­cert hon­or­ing A.R. Rah­man, the movie com­poser who won two Os­cars in 2009 for best orig­i­nal score and best orig­i­nal song for "Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire." That bonanza-to­gether with the awards cer­e­mony-will be held at the 82,500-seat MetLife Sta­dium, an out­door NFL venue across the Hud­son River in East Ruther­ford, New Jer­sey. "We need you to pray a lit­tle for the rain Gods to be on our side," joked Kapoor on Thurs­day with down­pours fore­cast.

Soft power

The 18th edi­tion of the awards, which some dub the Os­cars of Bol­ly­wood, comes at a time of growth for In­dian film in North Amer­ica. The or­ga­niz­ers have been on a pub­lic­ity blitz, ring­ing in the Nasdaq stock ex­change bell Wed­nes­day, drum­ming up spon­sor­ship and mar­ket­ing. Mo­ham­mad Asif, founder of the Bom­bay Theatre in Queens, said that since he set up shop in the mid-1990s, the num­ber of cin­e­mas show­ing In­dian films in the United States has grown from around 15-20 to 200.

He at­trib­uted the in­crease to the thriv­ing In­dian econ­omy, big­ger film bud­gets, an in­crease in the South Asian di­as­pora, and grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity among Afghans, Arabs, Rus­sians and Caribbean im­mi­grants. In­creased cross-over with In­dian stars such as Priyanka Cho­pra hav­ing roles in Hol­ly­wood is giv­ing In­dia more vis­i­bil­ity and global ex­po­sure. "This is re­ally In­dia's soft power at its best, as we strive to de­velop our re­la­tion­ship with the United States fur­ther," consul gen­eral to New York, Riva Gan­guly Das, told an IIFA press con­fer­ence. But if IIFA's hopes to reach out to new au­di­ences by hold­ing its awards cer­e­mony each year over­seas, it still has some way to go. "It's a store," one Amer­i­can in Times Square said blankly when asked if he knew what Bol­ly­wood was. A pass­ing Bri­tish tourist said he had never heard of IIFA, nor star ac­tors Sal­man Khan and Ka­t­rina Kaif. "I'll prob­a­bly move on," he said walk­ing off.


Nei­ther are drawn-out lo­gis­tics and fluid tim­ings to ev­ery taste in a city well versed in tight sched­ules. "I'm ac­tu­ally kind of up­set be­cause we've been wait­ing here for about three hours," said Nija Walker, 23, a funk-jazz drum­mer from New York's Westchester sub­urb keen to learn more about Bol­ly­wood. But Fo­ram Dalal, 30, who stud­ies man­age­ment and in­for­ma­tion sys­tems, trav­elled in from New Jer­sey with her par­ents, seven-month-old daugh­ter, hus­band and friends de­ter­mined to sa­vor the mo­ment.

"Even if you see one star, it's worth it," she told AFP in Times Square. "I'm more than over­whelmed to be at this place right now." With a view­er­ship of al­most 800 mil­lion, IIFA is In­dia's big­gest me­dia event and one of the world's most-watched an­nual en­ter­tain­ment shows. "It's a huge in­dus­try," said Habibah Hus­sain, a 37-year-old teacher and Pak­istani tourist soaking up the at­mos­phere. "I've seen peo­ple who don't even un­der­stand Hindi-they watch it, be­cause they dub it as well, and they're fa­mous. That's why they're here," she said ges­tur­ing to Times Square. — AFP

Bol­ly­wood ac­tors Ritesh Desh­mukh (left) and Manish Paul per­form on stage as they host IIFA Rocks.

Bol­ly­wood mu­sic com­poser and singer AR Rah­man per­forms at IIFA Rock at the MetLife Sta­dium in East Ruther­ford, New Jer­sey dur­ing the 18th In­ter­na­tional In­dian Film Academy (IIFA) Fes­ti­val. — AFP

Bol­ly­wood Ac­tor Varun Dhawan (right) gives an award dur­ing IIFA Rocks.

Bol­ly­wood Ac­tress Ka­t­rina Kaif holds an award on stage.

Bol­ly­wood singers Jonita Gandhi (left), AR Rah­man (cen­ter) and Neeti Mo­han per­form on stage.

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