Bollywood Nights at The Indian International Film Academy Awards!

The World’s Biggest Entertainment Awards, Reported by Raakhi Kapur

The glamour, the color, the chaos! It was all there at the Indian International Film Academy Awards.

For a report direct from the green carpet, I want to introduce a young creative thinker, dancer, and producer – Raakhi Kapur – who is going to share her incredible experience at the Indian International Film Academy Awards. Phew – a long title, but not nearly as long as the event!

If you always wanted a taste of India, were curious about Bollywood, or would like to tip your toe into the culture of one of the largest nations in the world, then this is your chance.

Raakhi, thank you so much for your report. Take it away!

stadium-prepRaakhi: Thank you, Tricia!

Okay, first – I’m a proud Indo-Canadian who has recently moved from Vancouver Canada to Los Angeles California in the pursuit of happiness (I got married to an American who happens to live here) and it’s been a bit of a change.

This year, I was fortunate to attend the Indian International Film Academy Awards to celebrate Indian film with American friends who were curious newbies, and also connect with friends from my Vancouver days.

The Indian International Film Academy Awards was on April 25 and 26, 2014. This is the first time the IIFA awards have come to the USA and it happened to only be 1 hour from Walt Disney World!

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Tricia: Why Tampa?

Raakhi: Well there is a strong South Asian population in Florida – lots of folks that are culturally from the western state of Gujurat, and there was one champion to make it all happen. This was Dr. Pallavi Patel, a local philanthropist, Indian enthusiast and obvious Bollywood fanatic.

Tricia: Can you give us a little Bollywood brief?

Raakhi: Sure. Bollywood is a ‘catchall’ term meant to define any Hindi film made in the Mumbai mega industry. Some may define the genre as a musical driven, love triangle plot complete with a teary eyed hero, midriff baring damsel in distress and a speeding car – I’ll leave that critique for another post, but you get the gist of it, it’s really a huge spectrum and is much more than I have described.

So with fake lashes, hair and nails in tow, I ventured off to show the ways of the “Bollywood” to my guests!

Like Indian weddings, Indian awards are multi-day extravaganzas. The first event we attended was called “The Magic Of the Movies,” a great set up for the awards, this dance and music concert got the heart of the crowd pumping.

Two hours later, the show began.

This was fully expected by all attendees, except us, because…my lovely guests were not accustomed to IST (Indian Standard Time). They learned quickly that 6:00 PM on the ticket really means we should start getting ready and leave your house around 7:00 PM. Since I was there with people who liked promptness, I decided not to be a know-it-all and prayed for the event to start as it stated. My wishes were clearly not heard.

Once things got rolling, there were some incredible collaborations that really stole the show. Pritam, a prominent music producer performed with a Gospel group and a Blue Grass band that brought the audience to their feet. Quite the unusual combination. We all loved it and the sounds were a warm welcome to the weekend ahead.

The most ridiculous moment of the night was the repeatedly awkward shots of “Mr. Sexy” Hritik Roshan – Bollywood’s favorite male heartthrob. The cameraman took the opportunity to pan over Hritik’s face to get the crowd screaming and cheering RIGHT in the middle of a service announcement about rape in India. Really cameraman? Really? Why didn’t someone TELL him this was a poor artistic choice the first or second time he shot the blue-eyed, brown Ken doll? Let’s just chalk it up to being lost in translation.

Following the concert I had the chance for midnight hellos with some of my favorite South Asians from around the globe, the founders of Urban Asian, who were doing a press for the event, North American choreographers and friends from times past.

Tricia: That was just day one?

on-our-wayRaakhi: Yes! You have to pace yourself!

The day of the awards felt like 3 days packed into one. We ventured off to the Expo – A.K.A. Indian shopping market in a convention center. Saw some b-rate fashion shows (sorry but they were, no big designers only wannabees) took pictures with cut-out cardboard Bollywood stars (always fun) and of course were sucked into the consumerism as I walked out with a pair of new earrings.

Getting ready for the event was what I considered “Day Two.”

Insert extensions – 10 mins . Curl hair – 30 mins. Iron sari – 30 mins. Tie sari – 20 mins. Do makeup – 20 mins. Re-tie Sari with shoes on – 20 mins. Have fast food dinner – 15 mins. Re-touch up makeup – 20 mins. Bindi, bangles, anklets, earrings, tikka, necklace nail polish application – 15 mins. Change outfit and repeat!

Ok maybe not the last one, but that would be entirely possible in this situation, basically it takes FOREVER to get ready, but it’s all good because the event starts two hours late anyway!

We were spoiled rotten at the awards by being gifted with floor seats by my good friends at Shiamak Davar dance. Shiamak is the biggest Bollywood choreographer in the world.

Tricia: “Have Feet. Will Dance.” TM. Don’t want to forget the trademark. I believe he’s a guru of contemporary dance in India?

Raakhi: Yes. Dance is intrinsic within each family. Most kids dance at home and many kids aspire to be taught by the Shiamak himself. He’s a ROCK STAR within the dance world in India – which means his fan base is bigger than the population of the U.S.A.

Tricia: Yep. India’s big. The map on the globe really does not do it justice. Was there some hob-nobbing?

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Raakhi: (Grins) Totally! Since we were amongst the honorary guests, we were hob-nobbing with the glitz and glamour of film A-listers! Like bonafide superstars, we walked the green carpet, confused crowds into cheering for us and took pictures with the fans!

Tricia: I love it! But why a green carpet?

Raahki: It’s symbolic of awareness of nature or sustainability.

Tricia: Okay, back to confusing the crowds…

Raakhi: This was our “how it feels to be a celebrity” moment. The only down side to this experience was trying to take pictures of Kareena Kapoor beside me when the people who were snapping away were CLEARLY behind the fence. Can’t say I was smooth about it.

Tricia: A girl’s gotta do, whatta girl’s gotta do.

Raakhi: Thank you, right?

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So we sauntered into the packed, sixty thousand-seat theater, twirling like we were ‘gone with the wind’ fabulous. As we took our seats in the VIP section throwing our hair back, laughing, hugging the strangers beside us, we happened to notice a few familiar faces. Sitting 5 rows ahead was none other than John Travolta, Steven Baldwin and Kevin Spacey. This seemed like a bizarre trio to be in cohorts with one another but at a Bollywood awards ceremony, they logically seemed to fit in one category.

The kick off of the night happened around 9:00 PM with a processional of dancers on a pirate ship doing Bhangra. There’s no way to make sense of it. Just enjoy the spectacle! Out came our co-hosts, Farhan Aktar and Shahid Kapoor. The good-looking duo tried hard to navigate the miscommunication between the teleprompter and their inner ear piece throughout the show, I’m sure it didn’t quite go as they imagined.

After many long and pregnant pauses between award presentations, the moment I didn’t know I was waiting for my whole life happened!

None other than John Travolta was pulled on stage by the glamorous Priyanka Chopra to do a Bollywood Dance number. Her Gorgeousness executed the moves perfectly while John did his best “Pulp Fiction” reprise. Following his crowd-pleasing performance – John was presented with some sort of unknown award – presumably for showing up. This nonsense moment was a highlight of the night, not only because I was rubbing my eyes to make sure it was him up there, but because the hosts were fixated on his performance in the cinematic masterpiece “Saturday Night Fever”!

As the 40 something year-old presenter went on and on about how he has been mimicking Travolta’s moves since he was a mere 5 years old, the camera was frozen on John’s disturbed face, cause let’s be honest here, John Travolta is only 21 still, and the math just didn’t add up. Just when we thought the show couldn’t get any better Hritik calls him out (I’m assuming unexpectedly):

“Come on John, just do it one time for us!”

The crowd erupted into an uncontrollable roar!

As a phoenix rises from the ashes, the body from the past swung itself from side to side as that famous Travolta finger crossed from hip to heaven over and over again.

I think I can die happy now.

Tricia: I should have gone. That’s life-changing.

Raakhi: (Still sighing.)

Tricia: What else? Any fashion wins or fails?

Deepika Padukone got my award for best dressed in her Zuhair Murad number; having adorned Sabyasachi, (Indian design royalty) the night before, this western look was sleek and memorable. Deepika received the award for Best Female Performance for Chennai Express produced by UTV – a Disney acquired company. Go Disney!

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As the awards show hit hour three, it was Kevin Spacey’s turn to win some undetermined IIFA award. After coming on stage, Deepika tied a traditional men’s loincloth on him, and taught him the “Lungi Dance” – one of the biggest songs of the year. After a few lukewarm moves, Spacey turned the cloth into a blanket, mocking the item and fell asleep under it on stage – in front of sixty thousand people! Yes this really did happen!

Tricia: I guess he didn’t know that was equal to an international incident. It’s really not good to surprise some people.

Raakhi: (Sighing for a different reason now.) Offended as I was, he seemed to redeem himself in the next series of nonsensical events.

Some of you may remember that Kevin Spacey also attended the Academy Awards here in LA. He was a part of Ellen’s record-breaking “Oscars selfie.” Farhan and Shahid seized the opportunity to take advantage of the selfie veteran and leverage his experience to recreate this earth-shattering image at the Bollywood event.

After corralling up the likes of Anil Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha and a few others (No Madhuri or Sri Devi to my dismay) they took a full 10 minutes for this time wasting photo. But here’s the kicker! After the snap, Kevin grabs the microphone and says to the thousands of on lookers. “You left the plastic on the phone.” Then he takes his seat.

A shocked Shahid pauses, as we all laugh our asses off, and quips back sarcastically. “Great team work guys!”

Tricia: Surreal. (Laughing.) What were your favorite moments overall?

Raakhi: The most memorable moments of the night (aside from Bollywood night fever and the failed selfie) came from the queen herself – Madhuri Dixit. All Hail, Madhuri. The Bollywood veteran did a medley of her most memorable dance numbers from the last 3 decades. She’s epic like Oprah, beautiful like Cinderella, and gentle like Dr. Quinn medicine woman. Madhuri is a goddess of the ages.

Tricia: Wow. I would love to meet her.

Raakhi: All in all, Shaimak Davar’s dancers were the real stars of the night, pulling out number after number, hour after hour till the closing extravaganza with Hrithik…at 3:00 AM. His rubber band body moonwalked across the stage like it he was the first item of yesterday.

3:30 AM – Thank you and good night, it was quite the seven-hour awards show.

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Tricia: Seven hours!!! Was there food, or drink breaks? That’s a long haul. People must have been sleeping in the stadium. Seven hours? (Laughing.) That’s incredible.

Raakhi: (Laughing as well.) Glen, the CEO of Shaimak really took care of us while we were there. Live texting from backstage during the awards, giving us the inside scoop and setting us up to meet with Shaimak the next day for a post event pow wow.

The end of the weekend was a meeting with Shaimak, the head artistic director of the IIFA awards and all of the incredible dancers from the sixteen unique numbers we saw them in. Music is the heart of Indian culture, and dance is the life within the people – so you can understand how this was all a once in a lifetime experience. Being able to reminisce, laugh and share our favorite memories with the performers themselves was a magical moment.

The event was crazy, all over the place, awesome, loud, hilarious, and disorganized. I really wouldn’t have it any other way. Just as India is a cacophony of events, people, places and things, IIFA was a reflection of all of the excitement and complexity that Indian culture has to offer – you can’t quite explain it all.

As the dance company was getting ready to head back to India, packed bags waiting for their ride, I felt thankful that I was able to share this time with my friends and colleagues, and show them my love for the Indian arts.

Tricia: That was a treat. I’m hooked on Bollywood clips on Youtube now too. Most of all, I feel a new love for Indian culture and a desire to explore more. The enthusiastic joy for life that comes across in all the music, dance and humor of this one event is truly irresistible. Thank you for sharing your stories and passion, Raakhi.

Raakhi: My pleasure. If you ever get to go to a Bollywood awards ceremony – take the opportunity and dance your way there.

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