Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Bangkok is Bollywood, Bollywood is Bangkok

The Indian International Film Academy (IIFA) Awards are coming to Bangkok from June 6 to 8, promising an extravaganza of Indian arts, industry and culture.

With 1,000s of stars and industry bigwigs jetting in , it's going to be so huge that it's hard to get a handle on just what will be happening when. Like: I'd like to see this year's acclaimed, fun-sounding musical Om Shanti Om (trailer), which is up for some awards. But I don't think they are actually showing any of the movies.

Mainly, I think this awards ceremony and weekend of conferences is just a big junket for all the Bollywood glitterati, to get out of India, jet off to some foreign land and make the local press and Indian diaspora hyperventilate from exposure to too much glamour. Since the IIFA Awards started in 2000, it has been hosted by London, followed by Sun City, South Africa; Genting Highlands, Malaysia; Johannesburg, Singapore, Amsterdam, Dubai and Yorkshire -- anywhere except India. I guess that's why the awards are "international".

One major event will be the world premiere of Sarkar Raj, the new movie by Ram Gopal Varma, and bringing together Abhishek Bacchan, his wife Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Abhishek's father, the legendary leading man Amitabh Bacchan.

Amitabh was in Bangkok last week to make the official announcement about the IIFA. He's the IIFA's "brand ambassador". He had this to say:

When we sit inside the darkened hall of a cinema hall, we never question what the nationality, the colour, class, or creed of the person sitting next to us is.

"We watch the same product in front of us. We are shaken up by the similar emotion, share the fear, perhaps, laugh at some of the jokes that appear and sing the same song.

"Where in the world does this one roof of integration exist except in the world of cinema and I am really proud to be a part of this element that really believes in bringing communities together rather than dividing it."

In another story by the Daily Xpress, Amitabh talked about the prospect of acting with his son and new daughter-in-law.

Ram Gopal Varma has said the casting of the three was intentional, but having the family working together has made for a much more intense drama.

"He's absolutely right; it's one of the proudest moments in my life. As a father, it's great watching a child grow up to be taller and better than I was."

Bollywood films were widely popular in Bangkok during the 1970s, among them Sholay, which I've recently seen on the shelf at a local DVD store, issued by local label Triple X.

In the past year, Bollywood Thai has been bringing in newly released Hindi-language films for a limited screening in Bangkok, opening the same day they do in India. Their most recent screening was Tashan a couple of weeks ago, but I missed it. Looks like fun. But there will be others.

See also:

(Photo via Daily Xpress/Anant Chantarasoot)

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