Toronto: The stage is set, the mood alive! As Bollywood`s grandest and most glamorous celebration, the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Weekend and Awards, launches here Thursday, Indian and Canadian officials hope for stronger ties in the years to come that will see a boost in co-productions, tourism and business.
"Canada is giving an amazing push to Indian cinema. It is great to see how their theatres are screening Hindi films, the public participation of the ethnic community, and the embracing of the South Asian community... all of that has been a huge factor in creating a buzz about IIFA there," Sabbas Joseph, director, Wizcraft International Entertainment, the organisers of the event, told reporters.
"The way infrastructure is being made available, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) hosting a Raj Kapoor retrospective, a street being named Raj Kapoor Crescent... It`s a first time ever! Each of these are unique, special events and arrangements for IIFA... and it brings a certain engagement factor," he added, appreciating the efforts of the host country.
IIFA, an annual event, is a three-day extravaganza starting from June 23 to celebrate Indian cinema on international shores. The event made its debut at the Millennium Dome in Greenwich, Britain, in 2000. It was organised with a meagre budget of Rs.2 million, but today, the budget of the star-studded event is at least up by "1,000 percent", said Sabbas, adding that the scale of the event is now a "little less than 5,000 times".
This year the event makes its North American debut.
Despite the high costs, IIFA is taking place in Toronto - home to over half a million Indians - thanks to the tie-ups and linkages with the communities in Ontario province, said Sabbas.
"The distance is daunting, the costs are daunting, and one needed to take a heavy and deep breath before saying - `You`re going to do it`. But what has helped are the tie-ups and linkages with the communities in Ontario, and especially the government of Ontario," said Joseph, one of Wizcraft`s three founder-directors, apart from Viraf Sarkari and Andre Timmins.
Canada is celebrating the `Year of India`, and IIFA 2011 will be spread across four cities in Ontario - Toronto, Markham, Brampton and Mississauga, Thursday to Saturday.
Key events will include the world premiere of "Double Dhamaal", the Raj Kapoor street naming ceremony, music and fashion night IIFA Rocks, IIFA Music Workshop, which will culminate in the grand IIFA Awards night at the popular Roger`s Centre.
Fun and frolic, it definitely is -- thanks to the galaxy of stars -- Shah Rukh Khan, Anil Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Dharmendra and Jermaine Jackson - who are expected to descend for the event.
But the intent behind the event is more business oriented, points out Joseph.
"In the bidding process, the countries need to tell us how much they are going to support the event - in financial or infrastructure terms, and especially in terms of what they are going to do for Hindi cinema, what they are going to do for Indian business to invest in that country. These factors make a huge difference in our decision," he said.
"We hope to create more opportunities for co-productions and exchange of technology, and they are going to focus on understanding our cinema... This apart, Canadian officials believe the tourism numbers from India will go up easily by 50 percent post-IIFA," he added.
Canadian Deputy High Commissioner Jim Nickel also suggests Toronto as a great spot for cultural exchange.
"Toronto is a great location to shoot, we have enough technical capabilities and we are ready to welcome Indians with open arms," Nickel said at a recent IIFA press conference in New Delhi, India.