The “sweet 16” edition of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Weekend and Awards – an annual celebration of Bollywood in a foreign land – is being pitched as an amalgam of the glamour, glitz and stardom of Hindi cinema, and a flavour of the culture and hospitality of Malaysia, where the show is returning after 13 years.
When it was last held in Malaysia – in Genting Highlands in 2002 – Wizcraft International Entertainment, the IIFA organisers, were looking at an audience of 6,000. For the forthcoming edition here June 5-7, the estimated audience is 13,000 to 14,000 at the Stadium Putra.
“When we came here in 2002, Malaysia was different, we were different. And now in 2015, Malaysia has changed, we have changed… both of us are better, bigger and larger than life, more organised, more modernised and glamorous…so, it will be a bigger, wonderful and probably more glamorous celebration that you’ll see of IIFA this year,” Sabbas Joseph, director, Wizcraft International Entertainment, the organisers of the mega event, told this visiting IANS correspondent here.
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IIFA, an annual event, is a three-day extravaganza, which made its debut at the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, Britain, in 2000. Back then, it was organised with a meagre budget of Rs.2 million. In 2011, Jospeh had claimed that the budget of the star-studded extravaganza is at least up by “1,000 percent”, and that scale of the event is now a “little less than 5,000 times”. Naturally, it has grown even more in 2015.
But Joseph says the budget is still being “calibrated”.
“It’s a large production,” he said, adding that it is an “not a fair comparison” to the 2002 edition of IIFA.
“At that point, we were looking at a 6,000 audience and we got it within three hours of opening bookings. That was Genting Highlands, and now it’s in Kuala Lumpur.
They these are two very different cities,” said Joseph, who heads Wizcraft International Entertainment with Viraf Sarkari and Andre Timmins.
Joseph and Timmins were here with Bollywood stars Anil Kapoor and Bipasha Basu to announce Kuala Lumpur as the host city of the IIFA Weekend and Awards. The local
cultural flavour to the event was a fascinating performance by Malaysian Istana Budaya Dancers. The main event, Jospeh said, will have more local flavour.
“You’ll see a lot! The dragons, Istana Budaya dancers… you will see different facets of Malaysia come true — from the sights and sounds, the performances, the treatment and the hospitality.”
“It’s always a new IIFA. IIFA incorporates the local flavour of every place that it visits. The fact that we embrace a country and the fact that our host country embraces us, it immediately generates a nouvaeu experience,” added Joseph of the event, which has travelled to the shores of the US, Britain, Europe, Middle East, Southeast Asia, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Canada.
To be held here at the Putra Stadium, an indoor multi-purpose stadium, where the organisers are hoping to go full house for a “larger than life celebration”, IIFA will have a fashion and musical night called IIFA Rocks; a gala screening of a much-awaited Bollywood film; and it will culminate with the awards night, where a string of actors will light up the stage with dance performances.
This year, IIFA will host a screening of Zoya Akhtar’s directorial “Dil Dhadakne Do”, bringing its cast — Anil, Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh, Anushka Sharma and Farhan Akhtar — to the red carpet just a day after its worldwide release. These apart, some of the confirmed names at the event are Bipasha, Ayushmann Khurrana, Dia Mirza, Boney Kapoor, Sridevi, Arjun Kapoor, Parineeti Chopra, Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor, Fawad Khan, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Jacqueline Fernandez and Sonakshi Sinha.
There will also be the business aspect that IIFA promotes annually. It aims to establish mutual benefits for both India as well as the host destinations by boosting tourism, economic development, trade, culture, cross-border investments and film co-productions.
What’s the plan on that front this time?
“We are looking at some of those aspects, but it’s too early to comment on it. We are looking at launching an international white paper on ‘Filming in International Locations’, and Malaysia is one of the countries featured in it. It tells what to do right when you plan to shoot in any foreign land… It will be launched at the IIFA Weekend,” said Joseph, who sees “struggles, exhilaration, applause, tears of joy, and celebration” when he looks back at the past years of the event.
“It’s sweet 16 because we feel we are still very young,” he said.