Rename IIFA as BIFA – Bollywood International Film Academy

IIFA show marked by 4-hour delays, thin presence of personalities from the South.

By Thampi Antony

TAMPA: When the Indian International Film Academy (IIFA) announced last year that its prestigious awards show would be held in Tampa, I wasn’t too keen on attending it. Part of the reason was I had heard that the 2013 IIFA awards ceremony, held in Toronto, had no meaningful representation for the South Indian cinema.

Thampi Antony with his wife Prema at the IIFA meet in Tampa. Insert pix in middle of story.
Thampi Antony with his wife Prema at the IIFA meet in Tampa.

If IIFA is lauded as the Indian Oscars, I definitely feel there should be greater representation of the art and artists from all parts of the country.

As I was debating whether to go for IIFA, an invitation came by mail. It wasn’t a totally unexpected invite—the organizers had emailed me weeks ago inquiring my availability. What tipped the scale in favor of us taking the trip to Tampa was the insistence of my wife, Prema, a huge movie buff.

However, as I dithered with the response, we ended up losing precious perks like free accommodation. I was fortunate to get six tickets for the ceremony, though. So I was able to invite four friends—Unnikrishnan, Anju, Jayaraj and Jayasree, all from Tampa—to join me to be seated in the privileged front rows of IIFA 2014. Needless to say, I enjoyed Friday’s green carpet welcome.

Even though the three-day award ceremony started on Thursday, the main attractions, including the awards distribution, were on Friday and Saturday. Awards for best technicians were distributed on Friday. Actors Deepika Padukone, Kareena Kapoor, Parineeti Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Hrithik Roshan and R. Madhavan were all present during the award ceremony.

Friday’s events were held at the Amphitheatre, which has a capacity of more than 25,000 spectators. Saturday’s venue was Raymond James Stadium, home of NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where more than 50,000 showed up.

On both days the programs started after a delay of more than four hours, bringing in a classic Indian touch to the festival. It was not a big surprise for the Indians gathered, but many Americans who worked in both venues were baffled by the long delay.

The Bhaag Milkha Bhaag fame Farhan Akhtar and actor Shahid Kapoor were the ones who hosted this year’s IIFA.

The highlights of Saturday’s show were the presence of the Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Hollywood actors John Travolta and Kevin Spacey and legendary Indian Olympian Milkha Singh, on whose life Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was based.

Mayor Buckhorn, Travolta and Spacey got huge rounds of applause from the audience for their speeches. And both the actors went on to do a few steps with their Bollywood counterparts. Among them Spacey’s lungi dance was a standout performance.

Kiran Patel, one of the main sponsors of the event, also spoke.

The award for the best actor also went to Farhan Akthar who lived the life of Milkha Singh in the screen.

The appearance of Ranveer Singh in a motor cycle and the arrival of a bunch of actors on a carnival ship took the audience by surprise during the Saturday’s show. The day also featured the dance performances of Deepika Padukone, Kareena Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra and Hrithik Roshan. But the most applauded performer was Madhuri Dixit who mesmerized the audience with her elegant steps.

Like its previous avatars, IIFA 2014 didn’t address my pet peeve: failure to showcase southern cinema.

Actors Madhavan and Dhanush and Bombay-based singer Shankar Mahadevan were the only noticeable South Indian presence in IIFA 2014. Dhanush made a surprise entry to the festival by winning an award for his debut Bollywood film Raanjhana that was released last year.

The Oscar winning Malayalee, Resul Pookutty, was present throughout the festival among the audience. He was invited to hand over an award on the last day.

Other than the festival had nothing for fans of South Indian movies to get excited about. IIFA turned out to be a BIFA (Bollywood International Film Academy).

The face of Kamala Hassan flashed for a second or two during a video package that showcased 100 years of Indian cinema, and that was it; the show was closed for South Indians. At least they could have played a few seconds of a song by Yesudas, who has won the most number of national awards for the best singer.

Though Deepika Padukone’s father, badminton great Prakash Padukone, was present among the audience, the organizers failed to honor him.

Despite my pet peeve and the delay in starting the proceedings, I have to admit that IIFA 2014 literally shook the city of Tampa, and it was a complete success.

(Thampi Antony is an actor, producer and writer based in San Francisco. He is known for the Hollywood movies Ca$h (2010) and Beyond the Soul (2002), for which he won the best actor award at the 2005 Honolulu International Film Festival, and a number of Malayalam films, including Sufi Paranja Katha (2010). The films he produced include Calcutta News (2008) and Papilio Buddha (2013), which has won numerous international awards, including the prestigious Berlin Film Festival.)

One Comment

  1. JayRaj Nair

    Thampy sir, you look really nice on IIFA green carpet. Your journal is absolutely a visual coverage. Well said it. I agree with all your points and views. Other than those delays and lag this event was a great success to Indians in USA. The full strength support of the City of Tampa as well as all the local medias was amazing. We should appreciate the Mayor of Tampa. See how beautifully they hosted this event here in US.
    Even though we have tons of Indian associations in United States, none of them could make a significant impact on the public or in the medias yet, except this event. I am sure we will be able to see some big positive changes in the hearts of Non-indians which will eventually affect in their approach towards Indian people more positively.
    Lets welcome more and more shows to the United States which keeps Indian values and tradition

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