Tuesday, May 6, 2014

2014 IIFA Awards up close and personal: A disastrous, infuriating mess

Two weekends ago now, I attended the International Indian Film Academy — IIFA — Awards here in own back yard of Tampa Bay as a member of the media — a dream come true, right? A dream that led me to come home early from India, to skip a trip to Assam.

Boy, did I end up regretting that.

I've watched IIFA broadcasts before and was so excited to see it up close and personal, but I came out of it realizing that IIFA is much, much better enjoyed as a TV show. Covering IIFA was a terrible, terrible experience that given the chance I’d never choose again. It was infuriatingly unprofessional and much less than promised (more on that later). And I'm not the only one who feels that way. I've heard complaints from everywhere, and there's even a survey circulating about how awful the experience was. Some others have made me feel like a whiny baby though (boohoo the stars came to my back yard but didn't want to see me), so I've held back on posting even after writing this epically long rant days after the events ended. But, nope, most of the fury hasn't died down.

I get the impression that IIFA’s “imperfections” are generally glossed over by media and everyone else, but I’m not one to sugarcoat things — ever — so here goes nothing.

Running on Indian Standard Time ... but worse

Everything starts late. And I do mean late. We all know desi events are notorious for starting at least half an hour late — which is fine, when people haven’t paid hundreds or even thousands of dollars to be there and when the venues are prepared.

I’m not sure how long after the scheduled start that IIFA Rocks got going, but the Magic of the Movies Technical Awards (which though smart for getting tiny awards over with was decidedly lame — “double the IIFA, double the dhamaka” my ass) and the main awards show both started roughly two hours late, mostly because the green carpet events didn’t start even remotely on time.

There were whispers down the media line that the stars wouldn’t show until the sun went down “because it was just too hot.” That’s all well and good — except that it left fans and media standing for hours in the sun and heat when temperatures were pushing 90 degrees F (32 C) without even accounting for the heat index (humidity). If you don’t want to stand in the heat, it’s unreasonable to expect everyone else to do it while waiting on you.

Members of the media (including myself) were asked to arrive at 3 p.m. for events scheduled at 3:30 or 4 that didn’t start going until 7 or 7:30. That’s an extra four hours standing in the sun, carrying equipment and sometimes dolled up for the cameras.

For Magic of the Movies, co-host Vir Das walked the green carpet at 7:45 — for an event that was supposed to start at 7.

The green carpet is a joke

Most of the big stars go on and on about how much the fans mean to them, but it’s remarkable how almost none of them actually seem to care. I stood on the three green carpets for a combined 15 hours and I never saw: Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Shahid Kapoor, Farhan Akhtar, Bipasha Basu, Ranveer Singh, Aditya Roy Kapoor, Kalki Koechlin, Parineeti Chopra.

I saw Hrithik Roshan, Boman Irani, Arshad Warsi, Priyanka Chopra and Sridevi once a piece, and other than Hrithik, none of them stopped for more than a photo at the carpet’s beginning. When you’re not actually there, you see lots of photos online of these people on the green carpet — but my personal opinion is that they either come so late that everyone has gone or come in where no one else can see on some back corner of the “green carpet” and have official photogs take their picture just for show.

Now, you might be tempted to make excuses for some of these — oh, Farhan and Shahid were hosting, Madhuri and Priyanka were performing, so they need rehearsal time — but Deepika Padukone also performed and she took ample time with fans and reporters alike while walking with Kevin Spacey. Priyanka and Hrithik were said to be nice with fans at the airport, at least. Madhuri and Kareena were reportedly extremely rude.

And think, well, you'll see them at the awards? Nope. They come for their part, show up on camera and then leave. By the end of the show, most of the stars' seats are empty.

Who did I see more than enough of on the green carpet and in the show? Gulshan Grover, Aftab Shivadasani, Stephen Baldwin (he kept coming back to walk again!) and Anil Kapoor. Gaaaaaaaawd Anil Kapoor. I’d be happy if I never saw him again in my life. He gives me the serious heebie jeebies.

I also saw more than enough of boosters who paid big bucks to walk the green carpet but kept getting in the way of stars, even when they were ordered by security to keep things moving.

And on the last night’s event, security corralled spectators on a side of the green carpet that stars never walked, completely shutting them out and giving them a view of a few “VIPs” asked to walk there instead. Think that stopped many of them from getting in the way on the real green carpet? Nope. Still utter chaos.

Promised but never delivered

At the first press conference in Tampa, the list of performers was topped by a very particular name: Shah Rukh Khan.

Now of course you should know by now that SRK didn’t come as IIFA promised, explained away by everything from the elections to contract disputes. He’s not the only one. This time, there were no Bachchans (sad since Abhishek was the one last year who announced the Tampa Bay locale), no Khans (except, well, Saif), no directors besides the decidedly underwhelming personality of Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (who won) and David Dhawan. Not even "confirmed performer" Honey Singh or Genelia D’Souza, who was touted as coming along with hubby Riteish Deshmukh (who was there), or Sonam Kapoor, who was reported to be coming with her father.

As a matter of fact, there were lots of popular children who weren’t there with their parents — no Ranbir Kapoor with Rishi, no Sonam with Anil, no Arjun Kapoor with Boney and Sridevi, no Varun Dhawan with David (though David promised some of us Varun would come next time). (Those who did come with their parents: Farhan with Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi, Kareena Kapoor with Randhir, Sonakshi Sinha with Shatrughan, and Siddharth Mahadevan with Shankar … and Ehsaan and Loy.)

It doesn’t stop there.

Vidya Balan came for a press conference when it was announced that she’d be hosting an acting “masterclass” panel with Kevin Spacey. I met and interviewed her then, and she was very nice (she even knew my name and who I was before I walked in the door).

But then, guess what?

She never showed for IIFA. She said originally that she was coming late after voting in Mumbai’s elections (yeah, scheduling during that was high on the long list of IIFA’s gaffes), but she didn’t come at all. (It kind of makes sense now that she hedged my question in that interview about what she was doing when she came back.)

Replacing her on the panel? Priyanka Chopra. What the hell does model-actress-singer-whatevergetsherfame Priyanka know about acting compared with Vidya? (Aside from momentary brilliance displayed in Barfi.)

And the one star (who shall remain nameless) I was supposed to interview during the IIFA Weekend? Totally blew off the interview and had a manager try to reschedule later for a time when they knew we’d be busy on the green carpet. I heard similar stories from other media folks about other stars and their managers.

Organizers also told us at the Tampa Bay Times early on that they were putting together a cricket match with Indian cricket stars and celebrities — then scrapped that plan without ever giving more explanation than venue troubles. (Planning it during IPL might have something to do with it too. Just sayin’.)

Furthermore, they denied the public access to the IIFA Rocks green carpet after they told us that it was open to the public.

I've also heard several horror stories in the past weeks and months about contest winners who were contacted to be told they won but then didn't hear back on receiving their tickets and weren't given all that they were promised, such as covering travel expenses and accommodations. And then there are the folks who bought presale tickets at Tampa's India Festival last October for $1,800 or more (back when the awards were planned for three days in June at the Tampa Bay Times Forum) and then couldn't get a straight answer out of organizers about their tickets.

Sounds a lot more like a scam, right?


Though made up of extremely friendly people, IIFA’s public relations team has been the worst one I’ve ever dealt with. They didn’t announce group interviews with stars that I later overheard about and didn’t get back to us on news-related queries months in advance of the event (including simple stuff like "how does one get in to IIFA Rocks?"). It’s like they don’t even know what a public relations team does, which is absurd considering they’ve been putting on IIFA events for 15 years.

IIFA’s PR team also told us that as a sponsoring media outlet, we would receive tickets to the night events. That didn’t turn out to be the case, as IIFA gave out tickets to dozens of media outlets who weren’t sponsors. So, bald-faced lie. And the media seats? They were good for the main awards show, but for Magic of the Movies, we were literally stuck in the venue’s very last row, unable to see anything and therefore unable to write about anything. Even though there were at least a hundred empty seats in some of the sections. They also told us we couldn’t take photos — but then let others carry in cameras and let a local TV station film the first few minutes.

Not only that, but IIFA also let some other outlets onto the green carpet itself, thereby getting in the way of everyone else.

It wasn’t just IIFA that was unprofessional. Some credentialed “members of the media” were highly unprofessional, too, which implies IIFA has very little standards if any as far as that is concerned. I get that they get requests from all over — I met journalists from India, Pakistan, Kenya, New Zealand and the U.K. — but come on.

And guess what: I don't mind calling out the rudest of the bunch.

A woman who was from Comcast demanded that one of us give her our spot because she’d left her jacket reserving a spot that had been taken over by official Twitter folks hired by IIFA. “What media are you with?” she demanded to know, as if we were less important. (Worth noting I was there for the Tampa Bay Times, which just won its 10th Pulitzer.) And when she got into a spot, we discovered she’d given up where she’d been standing earlier to her children — who had no media passes and were more worried about taking selfies with stars than anything else.

A team from India’s News Nation that made this video came in to the IIFA Rocks green carpet about 20 minutes before stars walked — about two hours after the media was instructed to arrive — and asked me to move from the spot I’d been standing in for more than two hours at that point. So that they could set up. When I refused — three times — to move, they went around me into a barricaded off section, climbing over other people’s bags and blocking another camera that had been set up since before I got there. Throughout the green carpet experience, they continued asking me to move for them. All because they couldn’t be bothered to show up earlier.

Stars I’ll never see the same way again

Despite all of their big talk about the opportunities to meet fans, most of the stars seem to treat IIFA as a vacation in a nice, previously scouted locale more than anything else. Meeting fans is at the very bottom of their priority list.

Shahid was in town for almost a week — he arrived on Monday, the first of the stars to come in. Where was he when he wasn’t hosting the main awards? God only knows, because he certainly wasn’t at any events. He's one of the ones that I heard had his managers blowing off meet and greets and interviews.

I was already a bit disillusioned with too easily chatty Priyanka after the first press conference when she came wearing so much makeup I wondered if she actually had a face at all. She kind of comes off as artificial as her face. Then during IIFA, she was said to take some time with fans at the airport, but she dodged all the green carpets except the last one, when she dutifully marched forward without a single photo or interview with the masses. She performed at IIFA — quite well, actually — and then disappeared mid ceremony, before an award already predetermined for her was given out.

Anupam Kher. Know that bubbly, friendly persona he always has onscreen and online? Completely dour every time he walked the green carpet.

On the flip side, Vivek Oberoi is way nicer than I had ever expected. And when he stepped into the 360 Vine booth, he slow-danced with his wife rather than making crazy faces like everyone else.

The venues had no warning

Raymond James Stadium for the main awards show ran out of food. Ditto for most drinks at the Mid-Florida Credit Union Amphitheatre during Magic of the Movies.

Now, I’ve been to much bigger events at these venues before — they can handle the crowds. If they know what’s coming. Hell, Raymond James Stadium has hosted Super Bowls.

Ray Jay, as it’s known, is supposed to only stay open until 3 a.m., a deadline IIFA pushed to the wire — though it shouldn’t have been, if it started even remotely on time or kept to its forecast length (it was some 5+ hours long). I’m told the sound was also not working in the upper decks, where the average joes able to afford $100 seats were.

Like the sound at Ray Jay, the visuals at the amphitheater were also totally inadequate for the crowd. Many of us up top couldn’t see a thing.

It makes you wonder what these venues were expecting, and from that what they were told.

Tampa did its part

The turnout in Tampa was phenomenal. An estimated 5,000 people came out for the final night’s green carpet alone. More than 20,000 bought tickets, costing $100 to $25,000.

And that’s after the show was moved up to April from the originally promised June. I know at least a dozen folks who were disappointed by the time switch and couldn’t make it. Or still others disappointed by the lack of SRK and Salman.

Hundreds more flocked to the airport’s welcoming events and the Hilton Tampa Downtown, the official hotel, to catch glimpses of the stars who did come.

The mayor participated in the show. Visit Tampa Bay lent its hand to making things happen.

And somehow IIFA still managed to screw things up. Which, some of those international journalists told me, is just how it operates. All of this I've mentioned? Apparently it happens every year.

Let’s just say there’s probably a reason IIFA moves around to a different country every year. I wouldn’t ever let anyone I know pay to go back there.


  1. wow.............stupid and fake post

  2. you definitely hate priyanka and shahid.....may be you are deepika PR writing it.

  3. Thanks for telling us the REAL story. IIFA is one of the worst of awards ceremonies. Completely phoney. Celebs go only because their trips or performances are paid for, or they are guaranteed awards. Its disgraceful that they want to parade Bollywoods brand of unprofessionalism abroad. And shows like IIFA also give the Indian film industry a bad name. But the whole show is an absolute scam from beginning to end.

  4. You are 100 percent right on everything. I could not agree with you more! I went to Toronto 3 years ago and the experience was a world apart. I was disappointed, frustrated, and ashamed! I hope your article circulates in the masses and reaches its way to Wizcraft Entertainment and Mr. Andrew Timmins!!!

    1. Agreed! Shared this post on Twitter. This needs to get out.

  5. Fantastic post. entire business of bollywood is a big con job. no originality, no professionalism no humanity and most of all no dedication towards an art form. all talk no substance. The saddest part of it all is that people pay some serious money to watch their favorite stars and get nothing in return.
    Kudos to you for writing this piece.

  6. I was there too from an Indian media, and I so agree to every bit of what you've written... iifa's a chaos...a mad mayhem where noone would ever want to go back to!

  7. what do you expect ?......that each celebrity come talk to you personally and hugs you......there will be a numerous ppl out there and it's not possible to expect everything ....obviously you expected alot and its your problem to expect(i can see you wasted your money on it too)...atleast you watched many celebrities live......just stay happy with what you got ,dont expect much ....it will leave you with only sorrows personally and professionally...........

    and regarding PC-RS----------------you probably saw it with your very narrowmind, otherwise i was there too and i felt there was nothing wrong in it...it's a pact made for fun to people...again it's you overthinked and exaggerated much.....

    remind one thing ,,,,they are actors ,so they can do the act which you might think as tantrums ,jealousy etc but which might be intended for media atttention.and they can actually act as cordial which inside would be the opposite......leave them alone darling

  8. Thank you. I hope everyone who has anything to do with Bollywood or IIFA reads this. It was straight up THE most disappointing experience of my life. IIFA in Toronto in 2011 (with way less stars) was WAY better on every note- show (honestly, the technical glitches at the main show was just embarrassing), venue/price (Gujju bhai made way more money than the mere 2,000 cataracts he's sponsoring), green carpets and overall atmosphere.

    "Shahid was in town for almost a week — he arrived on Monday, the first of the stars to come in. Where was he when he wasn’t hosting the main awards? God only knows, because he certainly wasn’t at any events. He's one of the ones that I heard had his managers blowing off meet and greets and interviews."

    This happened to me. Not only was our previously scheduled meet & greet completely blown off, we LITERALLY were standing in front of his manager at the Hilton while she was too busy smoking and loitering around. And after blatantly ignoring us, another member from his team comes to chat with me and my friend, and instead of correcting the situation, he tried to mooch $2,000 for tickets to the show... I was shocked. And if that wasn't enough, his manager later emails us saying she had called but we didn't pick up. A STRAIGHT UP LIE! WE WERE FUCKING IN HER FACE FOR 10 MINS CALLING HER NAME! If you can't fulfill a promise, don't make one. Deepika's manager had pleasantly declined ahead of time saying she wasn't sure with her schedule, and that's completely fine. That basic act of respect is all fans want.

  9. Bad to hear. They definitely left a bad impression on bollywood..

    Also makes a difference when the biggest stars don't come too

  10. One more negative - because of the date changes, some poor couple lost their wedding venue!

  11. Where is your credibility as a blogger? There are tons of pics showing Ranveer on the green carpet. You are writing nonsense. Just because u didn't see him.

    1. I really appreciate your good post,This is lovely and live post.....


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