Bollywood bombards film fans with Toronto bash
From left to right, Diya Mirza, Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma, and Shah Rukh Khan acknowledge the fans while on stage at the 2011 International Indian Film Academy Awards in Toronto early Sunday morning, June 26, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Published Sunday, June 26, 2011 8:26AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 5:11AM EDT
TORONTO - Bollywood bombarded its Canadian fans with a glittering, multi-coloured carnival of song, dance and glamour as India's star-studded version of the Oscars made its North American debut Saturday, capping the South Asian showcase with an appearance by U.S. actors Hilary Swank and a moonwalking Cuba Gooding Jr.
The five-hour award bash, hosted by the International Indian Film Academy, paraded its biggest matinee idols in a boisterous spectacle that kicked off slowly with a series of welcoming remarks and unscripted banter between Bollywood king Shah Rukh Khan and co-hosts Boman Irani and Ritesh Deshmukh.
It closed with a taste of Hollywood, as "Slumdog Millionaire" star Anil Kapoor escorted Swank onto the stage to present a best actor award to Bollywood king Shah Rukh Khan for the 9/11 melodrama, "My Name is Khan."
"Namaste, Toronto. Namaste, India. Namaste, world," Swank, draped in a glittering sleeveless red gown, said to appreciative cheers from the crowd.
"Hollywood and Indian cinema must bring the world closer together. I believe in IIFA's vision -- one people, one world."
Later, Gooding broke into an impromptu moonwalk before handing out a best director trophy to Karan Johar for the melodrama, "My Name is Khan," declaring that he was enthralled by Indian cinema.
"I think it's absolutely wonderful how India has travelled the world of entertainment and I would love love to play and be a part of a Bollywood movie myself," said Gooding, who twirled and hollered for the fans.
The awards show capped a three-day campaign to deepen Bollywood's global fanbase with an annual celebration commonly known as the IIFAs (pronounced "Eye-fahs").
Kapoor offered an enthusiastic greeting to the largely South Asian audience early in the night.
"For the first time in its 12-year history IIFA makes its North American debut and its biggest stars are you," Kapoor said in a mix of English, Hindi and Punjabi while pointing to the audience.
"Thank you Ontario. Thank you so much for making us feel the warmth in Canada."
The weekend's events included a film festival, music workshop, business forum, fashion show and rock concert staged throughout the Greater Toronto Area.
Canadian comic Tom Green and Indo-Canadian actress Lisa Ray were among the homegrown celebs to walk Saturday's red carpet, renamed the green carpet to reflect the event's eco-commitment.
The most enthusiastic cheers were sparked by South Asian heroes including Khan, considered as famous as Tom Cruise, and crossover star Kapoor.
During the show, one overzealous male fan rushed the stage to grab Khan, managing to wrap his arms and legs around the star's legs before Irani pulled him off. Several security officers stepped in to escort the man offstage.
Organizers say more than 200 filmmakers and actors came from overseas in the bid to gain inroads into the North American market and build production partnerships.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty took the stage early on to say he had long been looking forward to the bash, expected to draw 40,000 tourists to the province.
"Some things are just universal, like a good story," said McGuinty, who returned later to present the award for best film to the action comedy, "Dabangg."
"It doesn't matter if you grew up in Brampton or Bangalore, Mississauga or Mumbai, you grew up hearing stories and sharing stories."
"We welcome you with open arms to ... share our story."
As per tradition, the show's first number was produced by the host country. The Ontario government's three-minute mix of video and live performance showcased the province's diversity with two Asian dragon dancers, bag pipers and South Asian costumes.
Bollywood-style performances included a high-energy dance number that revolved around model-turned-film actress Kanagan Ranaut and a song-and-dance number from heartthrob Bobby Deol, who arrived in a car that was driven onstage. He was later joined onstage by brother Sunny and their legendary father Dharmendra, who received a special award for his 55-year career.
Star-seekers began gathering around the Rogers Centre hours before the show to get a glimpse of arriving luminaries.
"Being away from our country and hosting this in our native town is such a huge opportunity and such a privilege for all of us," said Arti Sharma, a 33-year-old marketing consultant.
"When you're away from your country it makes (this) all the bigger for you and the passion comes out. You're here to see some of the finest movie stars that you've not seen in person."
Roughly 16,000 of the 22,000 tickets available to the public sold out in minutes. Those lucky enough to snag seats were charged between $49 and $125, while resellers offered last-minute tickets online for as much as $1,500 each.
Sharma says she paid $500 for her seat and came early in hopes of meeting her idol, Khan.
"I am a real fan of Shah Rukh -- if Shah Rukh can get to this then he should know I'm a big fan of his," said Sharma, who came with more than 15 family members from the Toronto-area.
"Shah Rukh Khan is the best!" exclaimed Geetu Singh, dressed in a cocktail dress like many of the fans gathered at the Rogers Centre. Others wandered through an adjacent concrete plaza in glittering saris and suits.
Vancouver resident Ginni Dhaliwal said her cousin gave her a ticket to the show, but attending meant she had to buy plane tickets for her kids and mother.
"I paid about $1,400 for the (plane) tickets," said Dhaliwal. "I had to miss work but it was totally worth it, totally worth it."
The awards gala is considered India's biggest media event and one of world's most-watched televised spectacles. It can be seen July 24 on OMNI.
Previous bashes have been held in London, Dubai, Amsterdam, Singapore, Bangkok, and Johannesburg.
A retrospective honouring the career of Raj Kapoor takes place Sunday as a joint program between the IIFAs and the Toronto International Film Festival.