IIFA 2014

IIFA 2014

FROM BOLLYWOOD TO CENTRAL FLORIDA

 

PHOTOS AND STORY BY SCOTT GIROUARD

 

Nine months of frenzied planning and preparation culminated on a Saturday night in April with the International Indian Film Academy Awards at Raymond James Stadium. The show’s hosts, Shahid Kapoor and Farhan Akhtar, arrived in pirate outfits in a mobile ship full of pirates, befitting the Tampa location for the show. For Winter Haven residents Dr. and Mrs. Ashish Shah and their children, the 2014 IIFA was much more than an awards show. What they were feeling as they attended the event was expressed by Tampa’s mayor as the show began.

 

Polk_Family“They said we couldn’t do this,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said on stage. “They said Tampa’s too small. They said where is Tampa? I say welcome to the greatest city in the world.” Buckhorn then paid tribute to Tampa’s Indian-American community. People had tears in their eyes, he said, because they were so proud to see IIFA in America and in their community.

 

Kevin_SpaceyFor Indian-Americans in Polk County and the rest of Central Florida, bringing IIFA to Tampa was a once in a lifetime chance to experience and to see their movie and television stars up close and personal. For comparison, hosting the Oscars or the Super Bowl would be a similar event. One difference, though, is the television audience. Where the Academy Award show draws 40 million viewers and the Super Bowl 120 million, the IIFA telecast was expected to draw 800 million total viewers.

 

DSC_6876Saturday afternoon began with an estimated 8,000 fans lined up along the Green Carpet to watch the stars arrive for the evening’s activities. The Bollywood (the name comes from the Bombay [Mumbai] film genre) actors and actresses are known for their close interaction with their fans, sometimes jumping into the crowds. As each “A” list star arrived, you could hear the screams of excitement from the fans. Those looking for Hollywood were not disappointed as John Travolta, Kevin Spacey and Sakina Jaffrey were in attendance as well. Local politicians, media and business leaders (many dressed in formal Indian evening wear), as well as Miss America Nina Davuluri, joined the beautiful people of show business for the evening.

 

 
DSC_6946During the ceremony, IIFA recognized Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel, the Tampa Bay philanthropists who led the local hosting efforts. “If we can share what we have with the people who need it, this world will be a wonderful place,” Pallavi Patel said. The ceremony, which began around 9:45 p.m., ended around 3:00 a.m. Few of the 28,000 to 30,000 people attending, many who had traveled 20 hours or more to be there, left early.

 

 

Miss_America_Nina_DavuluriFor those of Indian descent in Polk County who attended, it meant that a piece of culture could be shared with children who were born and raised in the U.S. It was an opportunity to experience in person an atmosphere that is unique to this event, and that they would in most cases never have a chance to experience again. For someone whose exposure to the entire experience began with the preparation for writing this story; it was a whirlwind of imagery, excitement, emotion and more. To experience it while sharing the culture of friends and neighbors was an added benefit.

 
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