You know the world’s turned upside down, when Cuba Gooding Jr, immortal star of Jerry Maguire (1996) and As Good As It Gets (1997), inimitable global Afro icon, walks a packed red carpet (or well, green carpet) at a Bollywood show. And the crowd yells out aloud together: Chunkey. Chunkey. Chunkey Pandey, mama mia!
In this strange pocket of the western world, Cuba’s a junior star, very few recognised him. Chunkey’s huge; they were all looking at him instead. Was it not for Anil Kapoor walking by Hillary Swank’s side, nobody would’ve figured that the Million Dollar Baby was a celebrity either. Or so it seemed at the green carpet for the IIFA awards. And then there were some, pacing up and down the entrance, hoping to be interviewed by practically every television and radio journo behind the barricades. We have a feeling, Gulshan Grover never really entered the stadium, he just kept walking the green carpet, and back again.
“My friend, the superstar of superstars, my friend, superstar...” Who could Anil Kapoor be introducing on stage? Given the circular, non-stop superlatives, you’d imagine Rajinikanth. He was referring to Dalton McGuinty, premier of the Canadian state of Ontario. Really? To be fair, McGuinty could do with some buttering up. The state had apparently doled out about $12 million for the IIFA weekend. But superstar of superstars etc? That’s roughly how it goes with our he-man of hyperbole, the ‘slumdog millioonnnaaaire’ Anil. Nothing could beat Dharmendra’s excitement either, where after dancing with his sons Sunny and Bobby, he kept the audience suitable glued to his life’s stories after receiving an honorary award. How about singer Mamata Sharma who went up on stage and started with, “Toronto, I love you so much, I louve you, I louuvee you soo muuuch....” Okay. We get the point.
Global brand Bollywood?
Part of the reason everyone, from Dino Morea to Dia Mirza, probably couldn’t hold their excitement, we suspect, is that they couldn’t have expected the sheer frenzy among Torontonians around all things Bollywood. This was the first IIFA Awards in North America. From our conversations with one of the delegates from Vegas, it seemed like the organisers are also looking at the city of sin for a possible future venue. So, are Hindi films really that big in Canada? Well, we never really went to Canada, we were in ‘Kanayda’, and this was entirely a non-resident South Asian female convention, a huge ‘sangeet’ or kitty party, if you ask us. Is Bollywood really a huge brand in these parts then? Yes, it is. So are Haldiram Bhujiawala and Dabur Chayawanprash.