Last night's big IIFA event — the Magic of the Movies and Technical Awards at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre — started two hours late, at 9 p.m. instead of 7, but the show's dazzling entertainment and elaborate, psychedelic light backdrops made the wait well worth it and compensated for some of the more confusing aspects of the evening.
The headscratching started on our arrival. Security hassles could be attributed to part of the delay. Cars entering at Orient Road were greeted individually by Tampa Police officers and instructed to head back to I-4 and re-enter at the U.S. 301 entrance of the Florida State Fairgrounds property, which surrounds the Amphitheatre. Also, bomb-sniffing dogs inspected all vehicles entering the backstage area, and TPD officers on horseback monitored the dropoff area.
After a long walk past Bentleys and other shiny cars — the Fairgrounds property resembled a new car lot; not one clunker in sight — we found our nearly nosebleed seats and watched commercials and videos, and wondered how and when the show was going to start.
Just as we were nearly ready to go home and skip the whole thing, a center screen lifted and the lights brightened to allow for Tampa philanthropist Kiran C. Patel to make his opening speech, giving credit to his wife, Pallavi, for bringing IIFA to Tampa. Following him, bubbly comedic stars Vir Das (who was 45 minutes late to the show) and Saif Ali Khan hosted, speaking in Hindi with no supertitles on the giant screens flanking both sides of the stage. Not sure how well their jokes went over. The camera cut to some confused non-Indians, bored celebs and one of the most ballyhooed celebs in attendance, India Olympic hero Milkha Singh, who wore his trademark majestic red turban. He was the subject of the film that raked in multiple awards, Bhaag Milkha Bhagg
During the show's opening jokes, an English catchphrase would surface now and then, like "You talking to me?!" and a doppelganger for American comedian Steve Harvey wearing a baggy shirt and shorts ran out in the middle and spread his arms and shouted, "Hello America!" The scene was humorously surreal. I have a feeling it was funnier without understanding the jokes.
A woman behind us screamed loudly and nearly pierced my eardrum. The nearly 6,000 fans in attendance were shrieking, and we usually didn't know why, creating a culture-shock disconnect that we also noticed at the IIFA Stomp earlier this week.
Adding to my discombobulation, the straw in my overpriced and overcarbonated Coke Zero refused to stay put. As I walked to my seat, it popped out onto the floor. This nearly happened to a friend seated next to me too. I know this strange soda phenomenon had nothing to do with IIFA, but it added to the surrealness of the night.
Back to the awards: For those who've been following the nominations, the big winners were action-adventure Krrish 3
(best action, visual effects), and Chennai Express,
which won for best song recording and sound mixing, in a tie with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
. Miss America Nina Davuluri made an appearance as did IIFA token American celeb Stephen Baldwin.
All in all, India's first of two big awards nights in Tampa could have been planned better. While I waited in my seat watching videos and waiting for the show to start, it dawned on me that perhaps it's advantageous that IIFA chose a smaller metro like ours to try out this American gala thing, so that organizational glitches can be ironed out before attempting to plan another big U.S. show in a more prominent urban center like New York and Los Angeles, where negative publicity and embarrassment are weightier factors.
And a more prominent city perhaps wouldn't bend over backward in desperation to provide resources without making its own requests.
The 15th Annual IIFA Awards will culminate tonight with its main event awards ceremony. According to Reuters, the show has been compared to the Super Bowl in terms of security needs, traffic management and planning — and is expected to attract worldwide viewership of 800 million that far surpasses the championship American football game's 111.5 million viewers on average in 2014.