New York City is host to this year's International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Weekend and Awards celebration and yesterday Bollywood brought out its celebrity all-stars to showcase the outstanding Indian films and performances from the past year.
The opening event was a press conference at the Sheraton Times Square. The large Metropolitan Ballroom was packed with standing-room only press and representatives of the film industry.
The event, scheduled to kickoff at 4:00 pm, was delayed by more than an hour. Light snacks and light conversation filled the time while Brillstein Entertainment Partners distributed information about their soon-to-be-released historical drama The Black Prince, an English/Punjabi/Hindi film based on the true story of the last King of Punjab before it was annexed by Britain in the 19th century.
The energy in the room took a decidedly enthusiastic upturn as the Bollywood stars entered the room to take their seats in the audience. Several of the actors in attendance have been nominated for awards, including: Alia Bhatt (Best Performance in a Leading Role - Female for Dear Zindagi and Udta Punjab) , Anupam Kher (Best Performance in Supporting Role - Male, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story), Shahid Kapoor (Best Performance in Leading Role - Male, Udta Punjab) and Sushant Singh Rajput (Best Performance in Leading Role - Male, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story).
Wizcraft International Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. Founder Sabbas Joseph hosted the event. As master of ceremonies, he kept the event entertaining, successfully providing equal time to event sponsors as well as celebrities. He also reiterated that the annual IIFA celebration not only brings Bollywood to the world, but it provides an opportunity to address important global issues such as climate change, equality and women's empowerment. He highlighted Woosh's "Barabari Ghar Se Shuru" initiative which emphasizes that equality begins at home in how we treat the women in our lives. Each of the celebrities signed their name on a "Barabari Ghar Se Shuru" poster in support of this effort.
Jackky Bhagnani and Nawazuddin Siddiqui introduced the short film Carbon: A Story of Tomorrow. Set in the year 2067, the sci-fi drama highlights the impact of unchecked climate change and pollution. In producing the film, Bhagnani seeks to help move audiences from conversation to action on climate change.
Taking a break from practicing for their IIFA 2017 performances, each of the Bollywood celebrities shared their enthusiastic thoughts about this year's celebrations.
Sharing his experience with IIFA, Sushant Singh Rajput explained, “I have always been excited for IIFA since my college days because that’s when my association with IIFA began. From being a background dancer to performing for the audiences as an actor, IIFA has always been very memorable to me. I am very grateful to IIFA for giving me a chance to perform. I doubt I will be performing on my songs, because the films I have done, don’t really have peppy numbers. However, I look forward to my performance at the IIFA Festival New York 2017.”
Commenting on her excitement for IIFA, Kriti Sanon said, “IIFA is a great platform where everyone from the industry travels globally and celebrates the glory of Indian Cinema. The IIFA Awards has always been held in the most beautiful destinations and this time it’s being held in New York. I am enthusiastically looking forward to my very first performance at the IIFA Festival and my first visit to the City.” Kriti Sanon and Sushant Singh Rajput most recently appeared together in the 2017 romantic thriller Raabta.
Embracing two microphones, Varun Dhawan emphatically shared his enthusiasm by saying, “I am absolutely excited to be a part of IIFA Awards in New York this year. I’m looking forward to joining everyone and seeing fans at the amazing MetLife Stadium. This year is truly going to be a grand celebration and I can’t wait to be there!” Varun Dhawan was last seen in the action comedy Dishoom.
During the press conference he noticed one of the invited guests was having difficulty mounting the steps to the stage. Salman noticed and stepped out of the celebrity lineup to help the elderly gentleman to and from the stage. One might say that Salman was just "being human" in that moment but this act was a powerful one. Joking about the time devoted to the press conference, Salman Khan explained that these type of events were necessary and that "we entertain ourselves up here, you entertain yourselves there." As a frequent performer in awards shows he went on to say, “It always feels great to be a part of the IIFA Movement and I look forward to the IIFA Festival in New York.” Salman Khan's recent films Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Sultan earned him notable accolades. Most recently he starred in the period war drama Tubelight.
Katrina Kaif said, “I’m really excited and looking forward to performing at the IIFA Awards this year. It is such a great platform that not only showcases the celebration of cinema globally but also it’s a great opportunity for us to reach out to our fans worldwide. I am excited that this year, it is happening in one of my favorite cities – New York!” Katrina Kaif was last seen in the film Baar Baar Dekho, a time travel drama and Fitoor, an adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations.
Speaking about her debut at IIFA, Alia Bhatt shared, “I am very excited to be a part of IIFA 2017, as this is going to be my debut at the IIFA Festival after 5 years in the industry. I am super excited that IIFA is being held in the beautiful city of New York. IIFA is all about togetherness and the celebration of the Indian cinema globally and I eagerly look forward to this celebration”.
Expressing his excitement, Shahid Kapoor said, “IIFA is all about creating memories and experiences. I had a great time last year hosting the show. This time around I will be performing at the IIFA Festival New York. I am hoping to give the audiences a power packed performance in the City That Never Sleeps.” Shahid Kapoor co-hosted IIFA 2014 in Tampa Florida - the first time IIFA was hosted in the United States. He was last seen in the World War II drama Rangoon.
IIFA 2017 continued with IIFA Stomp hosted at Times Square.
IIFA celebrations continue on Friday evening with IIFA Rocks, hosted at the MetLife Stadium. Unfortunately, the stadium is an open air arena and it had been raining most of the day leading up to the event.
Photo Credit: Jim Dooley, Falling in Love With Bollywood
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