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'We always wanted to come to America'

January 20, 2014 17:57 IST
Priyanka Chopra and Anil KapoorBollywood’s biggest overseas event, the IIFA Awards, will be held in the US for the first time. Aseem Chhabra reports.

It started off 15 years ago as a Bollywood awards event at London’s Millennium Dome. Since that year, the International Indian Film Awards has traveled around the world to cities like Macau, Singapore, Dubai, Toronto and Amsterdam.

It will now be held for the first time in the United States, in Tampa Bay, Florida.

On January 15, the IIFA organisers, Tampa Bay officials, and Bollywood stars Anil Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra spoke to the Indian-American media in New York City, where they announced plans for the Tata Motors IIFA Awards 2014, scheduled for April 24-26.

“IIFA is designed to celebrate Indian cinema across the world,” organiser Viraf Sarkari, director, Wizcraft International, said. “The idea is to take India, Indian cinema and the stars closer to global Indians and introduce newer territories for the films. That’s exactly the job IIFA is doing.”

When IIFA began, Sarkari said, the US seemed far away. “We are very happy that we have matured and are coming to America,” he said. “We always wanted to come to America. The time is right now.”

Unlike other awards shows, the three-day IIFA event promises to celebrate the arts, business, entertainment and glamour aspects of Bollywood, including discussions, film workshops, media briefings, the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum, the IIFA Rocks fashion show with live music, IIFA Magic of the Movies, technical awards and the main awards ceremony.

“There will be parties everyday,” Sarkari said, adding that tickets for the show were already on sale.

The process of getting IIFA and Tampa Bay together was a journey that started about nine months ago, said Santiago Corrado, president and chief executive officer, Visit Tampa Bay. 

“We understood the power of IIFA and the power to create a destination to become a gateway to India,” Corrado said. “And IIFA understood our destination (Tampa Bay), but a destination not known throughout the world. We want to share our great city with the world. We have the greatest people, wonderful accommodation, incredible shopping and dinning. And IIFA was able to identify what we wanted to do.”
“It is more than just the economic impact for us,” he added. “It was beyond money. It was about establishing a relationship with India, Wizcraft and Indian cinema.”
He identified why IIFA had selected Tampa Bay as the first American city to
host the event. 
“It is because from the heart we wanted it and we wanted it more than anyone else,” he said, adding, “We are committed to making IIFA 2014 the biggest and the best.”
The biggest part of IIFA, of course, is the glamour. 
This year’s event will be co-hosted by Bollywood stars Farhan Akhtar and Shahid Kapoor, who also hosted the 2012 show in Singapore. Shah Rukh Khan will be one of the performers at the event.
At the press conference, Kapoor and Chopra provided most of the glamour. The media cheered the stars the most, especially as the duo had the liberty of adding humor with their pitch.
Chopra, who looked stunning in a black jacket and pants with white shoes, emphasized the same message.
“Standing here in the greatest city in the world, I can only say that Tampa Bay will blow you away,” she said as the media cheered. (Read the entire interview here).
She and her star colleagues, Chopra added, would “take away for a few hours whatever is going on in your life” during the event.
After praising the energy of New York, a city he has visited since the 1980s, Kapoor, with his trademark stubble on his face, turned to the main purpose of his visit.
“Actually, I want New York to come to Tampa Bay,” he said in all seriousness, adding, “It’s a historic event because IIFA is being held in the United States of America for the first time. If you want IIFA to come to New York, then first New York has to come to Tampa Bay.” (Read the entire interview here)
When he was invited to attend the first IIFA event in London, Kapoor said  he had skipped it, only to discover that he had won an award.  He has not missed a single IIFA show since, he said, adding that he wanted to make sure that he would perform at the Tampa Bay event.
“Why wasn’t my name announced as one of the performers?” the 57 year old asked the organisers. “Don’t you want me to be there this time?” he asked again, giving the media more room to laugh.
In the picture: Priyanka Chopra and Anil Kapoor. Photograph: Paresh Gandhi
Aseem Chhabra in New York