by Devansh Patel
It was love at first sight. The year - 2007, the city - London, the place - House of Commons. It was about 2pm and my first step into the UK parliament. I was more than excited to be one of the few media personalities invited to attend the conference where IIFA Brand Ambassador Mr Amitabh Bachchan was to give a welcome speech and announce the IIFA Yorkshire 2007 and meet the then Prime Minister of the UK, Mr Tony Blair. The beautifully constructed high ceiling, the grandeur of the House of Commons, the extraordinary sculptures you pass by on your way to the grand hall. Everything looked perfect. I enter the hall. Cameras, cameras and more cameras. Channel Four, BBC, GM TV, all the top broadcast channels from the UK ready to pan the mighty Big B as he strides in along with the Minister of Culture Tessa Jowell, Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Office Keith Vaz, Lord Swaraj Paul, NRI Industrialist and British Ambassador for Overseas Business, Indian High Commissioner Kamlesh Sharma, and scores of members of both houses of Parliament. What followed were some memorable speeches made by the dignitaries, a photo call, handling of the Big B with Big Ben picture and the famous Tony Blair speech. What strike me most was the following which the Brand Ambassador had to say: “About fifty sixty years ago acting in films was not considered an honourable profession and many families in fact disapproved of their children taking to acting. But today it is a matter of pride that I am being showered with love and affection in this August House, mainly because of the eminence and appreciation the Indian films have earned in the overseas.” The conference got over and I was told to travel to Yorkshire in the same train in which Mr Bachchan was travelling to announce the IIFA awards up north. Cut to the next day morning and I am seen sitting opposite Big B in my first ever one on one interview for the IIFAs. A great moment. The torch bearer Bachchan was busy then and is doubly busy now as the IIFA gets set to take Macau by storm in what's said to be the golden decade for the IIFAs. His speeches, his humorous remarks, his dazzling performances on stage, him honouring the Lifetime achievers and many more such instances makes IIFA worth it's wait, and no matter what people say about the IIFAs, for me, it's about this one man Amitabh Bachchan, who has lifted the IIFA torch with utmost pride, passion and conviction since a decade. The last time I met him was a good couple of weeks back when he was seen announcing the IIFA Macau in Mumbai's Grand Hyatt. The eyes were blue like a cloudless sky, a day full of sun. There was like endless love and comprehension in those eyes, it’s what I remember the most, the expression of his eyes. He didn't look like the man on the screen but a man who was a simple human being and whose charm was a sort of childish innocence that has transformed him into a symbol of what India is for the rest of the world. Bollywood Hungama's London correspondent and UK's Harrow Observer columnist Devansh Patel manages to speak to this immaculate personality regarding the 10th IIFA Awards. A man who is admired, loved and worshipped the world over for his undeniable support towards the Indian Film Industry - the larger than life Amitabh Bachchan.
Let's go back right to the start of the IIFA's. What would it have taken to satisfy you that this was the right choice in life you made by being an ambassador to an event which no one had even heard of?
I always work on my instinct and today I am proud be associated with IIFA. There was a time when no one knew actors outside India but today people around the world recognize us immediately. They know the names of characters I have played in my films. They are interested and excited about what our kind of cinema offers in terms of wholesome entertainment. This was all possible because of IIFA. I knew right from the very beginning that the IIFA would become bigger and better over the years to come.
The Golden Decade for the IIFA. Honestly, how much have you grown in these ten years along with the IIFA?
This year is truly exciting for us as we celebrate a decade of the IIFA magic. The Videocon IIFA Weekend in Macau promises to be a one- of-a-kind experience. IIFA has brought Indian cinema on the global platform so as the brand ambassador I wish IIFA many more years of success. IIFA is like a family and every individual wants his family to flourish so I am no different. All I can say is IIFA has taught me a lot and given Indian cinema a great global exposure.
What appealed to you besides the fact that the IIFA is the only Indian award function taking place out of Indian shores?
There is no single reason for me to be associated with IIFA, there are plenty. IIFA is very special to me and I am committed to enhancing the IIFA phenomenon every year. Besides taking the Indian cinema to international shores IIFA develops and promotes direct relationships between industries and organisations around the world. It is an interactive platform enhancing business and bi-lateral trade opportunities. IIFA has grown from one amazing night to the IIFA Weekend, working effectively as a movement dedicated to promoting Indian Cinema beyond India and placing it on an international platform by fostering exchange and interaction to enhance business opportunities.
Come to think of it, you're involved in a world of film-making that people think of as extremely consuming, high-powered, even cut-throat. Does the same imply to award functions too?
I will not be able to comment on other awards function but I know for the fact that the IIFA awards are very fair and IIFA’s nomination process itself is different. The entire film industry is involved in it. We follow a standard and transparent procedure monitored and audited by PriceWaterCoopers. We take the integrity and honesty of this process very seriously.
Out of all the 9 IIFA's you've been a part of, which one in particular has made a profound impact on you and why?
This is indeed a very difficult question because all the IIFA’s that I have attended were different. Every IIFA proves to be better than the last one that’s how we have accomplished a distinct ten year journey. It is very heartening to see IIFA grow to this scale and prominence over the years. IIFA entering its 10th year is a testament to its endurance and importance in the industry.
Have you ever visited Macau? And anything in particular you're looking forward to in what's termed as the Las Vegas of Asia, The Venetian?
This was my first time in Macau. The Venetian® Macao-Resort-Hotel is a renaissance Venetian themed luxury hotel and casino, modelled on its sister casino in Las Vegas. It is the largest single structure hotel building in Asia considered to be the continent’s most exciting destination. I was thrilled to explore the venue on my very first trip. I look forward to visiting the place again.
So who's the naughty one of the three Wiz Kids? More aggressive in his approach, more like a go-getter, etc?
All three have their own distinct personalities which compliment each other.
Different city, different fans, different food, different weather but similar passion for cinema everywhere. Aren't you fascinated with our Indian fans abroad, to see them come and back an event like IIFA?
IIFA has given me a broader understanding of my fans. It is an ideal platform to know and connect with them internationally. The love and adulation that Indian cinema receives is beyond imagination. It is a very humbling experience.
How was your Macau trip and how did the Press interactions go? I mean, Macau isn't a city where Indian films are prominently showcased, right?
The press interactions were fine. I went on a Gondola ride after 30 years!! This was my first visit to Macau and there is no doubt that the experience was phenomenal I am looking forward to going there again for the Videocon IIFA Weekend 2009 which will be celebrated on June 11 – 13, 2009
The 10th year celebrations this year at the IIFA will be packed with surprises. Anything from your end we should look forward to?
Wait and watch!