With all the talk about hotel bookings, ticket sales, and economic impact, the real reason behind the 15th annual Bollywood Oscars has taken a back seat so far.
Now, with the four-day international extravaganza scheduled to start Wednesday, it’s time for fun.
“This can be the memory of a lifetime,” said Sabbas Joseph, director with event sponsor, the International Indian Film Academy. “Tampa has never seen an event like this and may never see one like this again. It is quite remarkable. It combines celebrities, high action, great entertainment and the coming together of Hollywood and Bollywood. Enjoy it.”
That assessment is echoed by a Tampa man, too — Visit Tampa Bay CEO and President Santiago Corrada, who attended the 2013 awards show in Macau, China.
The awards event is so large, Corrada noted, that it couldn’t fit in the Forum downtown so it was moved to Raymond James Stadium.
“It’s a long production, but it never loses your interest,” Corrada said. “It’s multi-visual with light shows, songs, dance, unbelievable choreography, glitz, glamour, fireworks, pyrotechnics and more.”
He added with a chuckle, “It’s the Oscars on steroids.”
Local leaders and the IIFA have been touting the economic impact the weekend will have on Tampa since it was announced in July 2013 that the city would be the first in the U.S. to host the international event — more than 30,000 tourists, an immediate economic impact estimated at $30 million and more than 800 million television viewers worldwide who will see Tampa at its best.
Then there are the business and film partnerships expected to develop when the two regions meet.❖
Shiamak Davar, who will be choreographing performances, compared the Bollywood Oscars to what Americans would see on Broadway — but on a larger scale.
“America is home to Broadway, and Indian cinema comes closest to it with its own way of storytelling through song and dance,” he said.
Actor Shahid Kapoor and a director/producer/actor Farhan Akhtar will host the awards, and stars performing will include Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra, Madhuri Dixit Nene, Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Ranveer Singh, Sonakshi Sinha, Bipasha Basu, Pritam and Vir Das.
Roshni Patel, co-founder of UrbanAsia.com — considered to be North America’s leading news website on everything Bollywood — said it is normal for some of Bollywood’s biggest stars to take their performance into the stands. And not just the VIP areas, but the upper levels, as well.
“It is compared to the Oscars, but it is also very different,” said Patel, a 29-year-old Tampa native who attended the IIFA awards in Toronto in 2011. “The Oscars is very classy and reserved. Bollywood is classy as well, but its actors are also very outgoing and interactive. It’s a party.”
Promoters said 25,000 tickets would be available, well under half the stadium’s capacity for concerts. The awards ceremony layout at the ticket sales site shows the stage to the side of the field, limited seating on the field, and some upper sections in the stands closed off.
Tickets for the awards show were still available earlier this week at Ticketmaster, for as little as $179.50. The most expensive tickets were advertised a whopping $3,294.75.
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But there’s cheaper fun to be had when a series of events kicks off Wednesday night with the free party called IIFA Stomp at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park downtown.
This will be followed by a full day of Thursday events at the Tampa Convention Center — the reservation-only Global Business Forum, featuring international business networking opportunities and panel discussions; the open-to-all IIFA Expo, providing a platform for Indian and Tampa businessmen to promote their wares and create trade opportunities; and the invitation-only IIFA Rocks fashion and music spectacular hosted by Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi.
The expo runs daily through Saturday, beginning each day at 8:30 a.m. The business forum also runs through Saturday and begins at 9 a.m. Registration is available through the USF College of Business at www.usf.edu/business/iifa.
Another Bollywood awards feature is a special actors workshop at 3 p.m. April 25 at the downtown Hilton, where USF students will learn from veteran Bollywood director Anupam Kher. This will be followed by the invitation-only world premiere of his short film, “I Went Shopping For Robert De Niro,” a story about how the search for a gift for Hollywood’s De Niro changes the lives of two girls who work for Kher in Mumbai.
Later that night at 7 p.m., at Mid Florida Credit Union Amphitheatre, is the IIFA Magic of the Movies and Technical Awards show. The cheapest tickets available for the show earlier this week at Ticketmaster were $188.50; the most expensive offered there were $835.50.
Hosted by Saif Ali Khan, the show honors those judged the best behind the cameras in categories such as cinematography, screenplay, editing and sound design.
In typical Bollywood fashion, even the technical awards event will be glamorous. It includes live song and dance performances by Pritam, Farhan Akhtar, Aditi Rao Hydari and Shruti Hassan.
Fans can catch a glimpse of the stars outside the amphitheater as they walk the green carpet — Bollywood’s version of the red carpet — from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
On Saturday from 12 to 1 p.m. at the downtown Hilton, Hollywood’s Kevin Spacey and Bollywood’s Vidya Balan will team up for IIFA Masterclass, an invitation-only panel discussion on a variety of cinema-related subjects.
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And then that evening will be the grand finale, the IIFA Awards.
Although the event begins at 7 p.m., stars will again walk the green carpet outside the stadium from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. — another chance, said UrbanAsian’s Patel, for fans to see their favorites.
“For many Bollywood fans living in the U.S., this will be their only opportunity to see their favorite stars up close,” she said. “I expect the stars to be even more giving of their time because they won’t want to let anyone down.”
Said choreographer Davar, “IIFA organically strengthens their love for Bollywood, gives them opportunities to meet their heroes and experience a great show in true Bollywood spirit.”
And he expects IIFA to make new fans out of Tampa residents.
“The IIFA Awards are a great way to introduce the U.S to what Bollywood is beyond its general perception,” he said.
“This is the coming together of two cultures,” said IIFA director Joseph. “It’s going to be a special time and begin a special relationship.”
UrbanAsian.com’s Patel can barely contain her excitement.
“It’s going to be crazy,” she said. “There are going to be screaming fans, big-name stars and a ton of fun chaos. I cannot believe that Bollywood is here in Tampa.”