Chat with the local media and you understand how excited Sri Lanka is about the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) hosting its 11th awards ceremony in the emerald island. "This is our chance to send a message to the world," one journalist explains. Ex Miss Sri Lanka and Bollywood actor, Jacqueline Fernandez, who attended the press conference in Colombo, says that her country was known to the world for all the wrong reasons till now.
“Sri Lanka has everything that a country can offer a tourist. Now that the tension in the country is almost over, it is time we share this beauty with the world,” she says. So, is she comfortable with the thought that an entire nation is pinning its hopes on a Bollywood awards function? “Well, Bollywood is not just another film industry. So it is the best way for my country to have an image makeover,” she asserts.
Ask IIFA brand ambassador and actor Amitabh Bachchan the same question, and he shrugs, “We are just hosting a mega event. Of course, in the process, we will do whatever we can to help the government and vice versa. But how the people perceive these awards, and what impact they feel it will have on the rest of the world, is their perception.”
Starting on June 3, this year’s IIFA will see a fashion extravaganza in which desi designers Manish Malhotra and Vikram Phadnis will showcase their collections. Another highlight of the event will be a cricket match between Indian and Sri Lankan celebrities and cricketers, workshops and finally the awards ceremony itself.
The Sri Lankan government is banking heavily on the impact of the IIFA to make Sri Lanka a preferred tourist destination the world over, starting with the Indian sub-continent. The global media publicity that the country will get just by hosting the IIFA is an estimated $ 50 million. Add to that the high recall value of the event with global Indians and it’s really not a bad bargain.
Every year, the IIFA chooses one movie to be premiered during the awards ceremony. This time, speculation is rife that the movie could be his son Abhishek Bachchan and daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai's upcoming film Raavana. Bachchan brushes aside this speculation and says that it is highly unlikely that Raavana will be premiered at the IIFA this year.
"The movie is not yet complete and I doubt they can finish it in time to be premiered here. And we have not yet decided which film to premiere yet. When we do, we will let you know," he signs off. The venue for the press conference on Tuesday, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel, Colombo, will be cordoned off to outsiders from June 3-June 5, when it will play host to actors and others from the Indian film industry.