Tuesday, June 28, 2011

IIFA Post #5 The Big Finale!

[Filmi Girl enjoying delicious street corn in Little India in Toronto.]


I’d been looking forward to attending IIFA in Toronto for so long that I can’t quite believe it’s all over. The past weekend feels like a very vivid dream. It was really amazing to be surrounded by so much love and enthusiasm from the
filmi community! Despite my pale skin, nobody ever made me feel unwelcome or out of place, which I really appreciated. I posted some blow by blow updates but I thought I would share with you lovely people a few of the things I learned over the weekend.

1. I made a conscious decision to attend IIFA as a spectator instead of trying to do a “working weekend” as a journalist. I’m a blogger and I wanted to enjoy myself instead of reporting back on the details on the press conferences for movies that I don’t care about - and that probably you don’t care about either!

Over the couple of years that I’ve been following Bollywood news, I’ve learned a lot about how the English-language Bollywood PR machine works. Publicists send out pre-written articles sending a narrative regarding whatever film is in the works. This is where those ‘on-set hijinx’ stories come from: Sanjay Dutt bringing segways onto the
Double Dhamaal set; Akshay Kumar rescuing Katrina Kaif from a crowd; Kajol tripping and falling to bring good luck; etc. etc. News outlets then take those stories, slightly rewrite them, and post them.

You also have the stories made up out of nothing - speculating on a tweet, a picture, a couple of people spotted together. These tend to be written to generate controversy and focus on link-ups, feuds, and other nonsense and if they are especially juicy, will get (slightly) rewritten and posted.

And then you have the dutiful reports on the press conferences and the interviews that reveal nothing about the subject other than that they are 100% really-truly not dating whoever the reporter is badgering them about.

If you are me and you don’t stay within those confines when writing about things, you sometimes receive nasty messages from official-type people telling you to only write nice things if you want access.

But you know what? I don’t really care about access to people like Sohail Khan. What do I care what he thinks of me? As I was watching the parade of celebrities this weekend, I realized that there were
very few of them I would honestly like to get to know. Arshad Warsi seems like a real genuine guy. Ranveer Singh would be hilarious to hang with. And I bet Kangana Ranaut knows how to party. But as I saw Esha Deol blowing air kisses to Karan Johar and Ameesha Patel giving a cutesy wave to somebody in the audience, I felt no desire to be part of that glitzy world. Sure, it’s fun to dress up and play pretend but by Sunday, I was ready to be around regular people who don’t wear sunglasses inside.

So, IIFA solidified for me that I like movies a lot more than I like celebrities and boring press events. And having accepted
nothing from IIFA, I can honestly say that Love Breakups Zindagi looks like a glossier and less interesting version of Band Baaja Baarat and I resent having been made to watch the trailer during the ceremony.

I refuse to be another outlet by which PR companies can circulate the same dull stories. I’ll continue to report my undiluted opinions and I’ll continue to do interviews with people I find interesting instead of people who have movies to push.

2. Shahrukh Khan is really popular. I knew this intellectually but I didn’t
feel the overwhelming Love of SRK until I was in that auditorium, listening to screams. Shahrukh Khan still generates Beatles-levels of hysteria. Do you know how overwhelming that feels just to watch? To be at the center of that madness - middle aged men grabbing your thighs in the middle of an awards show - must take superhuman strength. I wonder if Shahrukh is happy...

I like Shahrukh but not as a
star. So, to me as an impartial observer, the ceremony really felt like a passing of the torch to the new generation. I don’t want to put too many expectations on Ranveer Singh but standing next to mid-40s Shahrukh with his broken knee, Raveer felt so young and vital. And hearing the crowd go wild (me, included) as he launched into “Dhinka Chika” gave me thrills.

Is the time of King Khan passing? Probably not in the next few years but Shahrukh can’t play the loverboy forever and his broken body isn’t going to play superhero for much longer. The cynic inside me would enjoy seeing a good flameout but the rest of me appreciates Shahrukh’s acting and would enjoy seeing him transition to serious films like
Chak De India. Either way, looking at him and Ranveer felt like seeing a young SRK next to an aging Rishi Kapoor back in 1992.

3. The Hindi Film Industry wants to have its cake and eat it, too. Bollywood wants to be global like Hollywood
while also being the cultural glue of the Diaspora. For every nod to an international (i.e. Western) audience - Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jermaine Jackson, Hillary Swank - there was somebody claiming the awards as a purely Indian function. Forget the fact that not everybody in the South Asian Diaspora even identifies as Indian (Little India in Toronto seemed to be full of Urdu script and Pakistani flags - #justsayin) Bollywood needs to figure out what they want from the international film community - and if they are going to take on Hollywood in an effort to be the global dream factory, some of the more exclusive rhetoric is going to have to change.*

*Emphasis on the SOME - of course, patriotism has a place in Hindi cinema as it does in American... but hopefully you understand what I'm trying to say.


Shell said...

This weekend was definitely overwhelming for me, but reading your observations I have to agree on a couple of points.

First of all, it is MUCH better to go to these things as a spectator! Well, I would imagine anyway. Do what you want to do, not what you are told to report on. It is the only way to go! (however, having a press badge would have gone a long way this weekend)

Secondly, you know how much I adore Shah Rukh, but I would be perfectly happy seeing him hand over that torch to someone like Ranveer. That isn't to say that he has to retire from filmmaking. Rishi Kapoor still does film, Amitach Bachchan still does film (and some kick ass ones at that). I would really enjoy seeing Shah Rukh take on some "mature" roles, with mature heroines with mature storylines. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all, and he can still be the headliner too. Just because you aren't doing the romantic comedies or superhero flicks doesn't mean you can't have top billed meaty roles. I look forward very much to see this new generation, as I think the industry is finally bringing forth some new talent worthy of carrying that torch!

Filmi Girl said...

@Shell I'm so glad to hear you say that!! I was afraid of offending SRK fans but I really do like the guy but he seems to be stretching himself too thin. There is no shame in getting older - but refusing to acknowledge it can be dangerous to a career.

Moimeme said...

Interesting take on IIFA. Personally I wondered why you would want to go to it, especially since barely any top level stars were going to be there (SRK was the only one, really). Living in DC as you do, you must have had access to other Bollywood shows. So I can't figure out the appeal of it.

Interesting point about press releases, though. Do you get the regular press releases for Bollywood films? And have you in fact received warnings or complaints when you have "strayed", so to speak? You may not care about Sohail Khan (Why did you mention him by name? Was he one of the complainers?), but you have expressed interest in the past in interviewing Salman, and Sohail does control access to Salman. I'm not suggesting that you should change your approach, however.

I'm a little surprised about your reactions to SRK. (Regarding the fan hysteria, you would find the same for all of the top stars.) He really seems to have struck you as being decrepit. He's been working with injuries for many years, and, while obviously he's not getting any younger, if Ra.1 and/or Don 2 work in a big way, he's back in the game. I honestly don't see any of the younger heroes who have even an iota of the charisma of the three Khans. That's one reason why they're still going strong. Also, I think the industry has evolved to the point now where they can contemplate substantial leading roles that do not fit into the mold of the traditional "hero", so they'll probably be around for a long time, too.

Filmi Girl said...

@moimeme See, that's an interesting perspective on IIFA because I didn't particularly care which stars showed up. Of course, I would want to see my favorites but enjoying the weekend is what the trip was all about.

I get invited to enough things here and in New York - not for every film and I rarely go. And I have received complaints from people who don't like it when I write anything resembling a negative comment. Not from Sohail, though. I've never had any interaction with him - I just picked his name at random.

As for interviewing Salman, of course I would love to but there are enough interviews with Salman out there that it doesn't really matter if I do or not. I'm not chasing stars by sucking up to them, is my point.

And I don't think you'd find the same kind of hysteria for all the top stars. People really love Shahrukh. Mamta Sharma winning for "Munni" even giggled out an "I love you" to him on stage and I can't see her doing that for Salman or Aamir. And Shahrukh really does look past his prime. He looks and acts tired of life, which Salman and Aamir do not.

redeem147 said...

I was one of the ones screaming for Shahrukh. He's younger than me and there's nothing decrepit that I can see there. ;)

He reminds me of my other love, James Marsters. In their forties, theatre background, love their kids, still doing the stunt work even as their bodies betray them, super charming with their fans...

Filmi Girl said...

@redeem147 And I enjoyed the enthusiasm! I just felt SRK looked tired and was going through the motions... not decrepit. :)

James Marsters is also fantastic... although he set a 50 year age cap on playing Spike again. TEAM SPIKE!

Bluemay said...

SRK looks tired and older than 45 because he constantly works and lives off coffee and cigarettes. When he's not filming a movie, he's making ads or personal appearances. The man needs to rest and eat!

redeem147 said...

I was at the Royal York when Shahrukh left - talk about enthusiastic fans!

I spent Sunday afternoon at the Raj Kapoor exhibit red carpet. Shook hands with Rishi Kapoor and Anupam Kher - that was the way to top off the weekend. :) I have a ticket Saturday night for Shakespeare Wallah - Raj Kapoor and Felicity Kendall.

I see you went down Gerrard St. :)

The most common asked question of me this weekend - "Are you Indian?" Did anyone ask you that? (I'm Irish background too.)

Jules said...

Well age has never mattered too much to me, I find men sexier as they age, so I'll watch Shah forever, regardless. But I have to say Ranveer is a little hottie.

I think the one thing I learned is that there's as much interest in us white folk int he Indian community as we have for theirs and I loved how well we all blended together. Easy to talk to, happy and smiley. It was a great time.

Sal said...

God, do I know the hysteria for Shahrukh. Having grown up across three Bollywood-loving cultures, I've seen first-hand how much he means to so many fans of Hindi films. Salman has a big fan following, especially among the "wannabhais", while Aamir has come to represent (whether one likes it or not) quality in mainstream Bollywood. But Shahrukh was THE star in the latter half of the nineties and the 2000s. Audiences just feel an ownership over SRK that is both singular and made permissible by him. I do want him to do more work that is off-beat and interesting with leading ladies who are more age appropriate (SRK and Tabu!), and I do want to see younger actors getting interesting work. I think the charisma is still there; it just needs to find outlets that are more interesting. SRK used to have this sort of fey, crazy, irrepressible sex appeal that has gotten sanitized over the years. I want to see him get that back. (I have to mention here that I don't think doing a movie with Anushka and Katrina - girls who are half his age - is going to help with that). At any rate, the SRK_mania is not going away anytime soon.

Mia said...

Poor SRK the workaholic! it is indeed catching up to him. I agree that i have yet to see the charisma in any of the youngsters. i'm fairly new to bw so that's not saying much. I am nearer to his age the a few of you so my heart goes out to him. its hard this midlife crap. but just think about Sean Connery that old dude was sexy for a loooong time. also iron man dude, same age as SRK.see he has some fight still left in him, he just needs some rest and food. (too skinny) thanks for your post !

Anishok said...

Great post! I really think SRK has a lot of flame left in him, although he needs to find another niche for himself - CDI, Swades, even Paheli-type movies are the way to go right now.
As an aside, it's so good to read that SRK is loved and embraced by so many people. Sometimes the on-line negativity of people and the awful comments they relentlessly spew towards the man get to me and I forget that he's truly a superstar.

Nerdypanda said...

Hey Filmi Girl, that's why I've become a regular reader of your blog. You are an honest blogger. I actually didn't meet any celebrities at the event. My dad did. He's a big bollywood fan and bollywood is a way my family can sort of connect back to India. I might not have anything in common with some relatives but we've seen the same Hindi movies. Keep doing what you're doing Filmi Girl!

lady said...

That's a very interesting write-up! I was at the hotel and awards show as well and on the last day while waiting for Shah Rukh's appearance, I was thinking I can't wait to go back to my boring job! And especially people who don't wear sunglasses indoors lol! However, once I was back, I kind of missed the celebrity lifestyle!

Anyways, Shah Rukh does need rest and he did seem sad to me. I kept saying that to my friends and how I felt bad for him. Actually even from a performance perspective, it seemed as if everyone was going through the motions. Ranveer was the only one who seemed to enjoy it and had fun. He had the best performance minus Sonakshi, even though she is a newcomer, seemed fake to me.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
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