Saturday, September 15, 2007

Toronto woos 2009 Indian awards show

Veteran Indian movie star Amitabh Bachchan has been doing more at the Toronto International Film Festival than just promoting his new film, The Last Lear. The Bollywood icon is drumming up support for Toronto's bid for the 2009 International Indian Film Academy Awards.

"Toronto is a location that we haven't been to before and it has a large [South] Asian community," explains the actor.

The awards show - which will celebrate its ninth anniversary in 2009 - is a sought-after event, thanks to its reputation as a tourist attraction. When Yorkshire, England, hosted it this year, more than 30,000 visitors flooded the city to catch a glimpse of their favourite Bollywood stars.

Since IIFAA's 2000 debut at the Millennium Dome in London, the annual awards show has travelled to South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Amsterdam and Dubai.

New York, Cologne and Turin are rumoured to be vying for the 2009 awards. The show mixes an Academy Awards-style presentation with a stage concert featuring Bollywood's extravagant musical spectacles.

"IIFA ... has been taking Indian cinema outside Indian shores," says Mr. Bachchan, who plays an aging Shakespearean actor in his new movie, an art-house film in English that eschews Bollywood's song and dance.

Toronto marketing firm Ethnic Guru is spearheading the city's bid for what would be the event's North American debut. Co-founders Moe Jiwan and Davinder Gurm are now lobbying government representatives for the final push in the year-long process.

"Although the [Ontario] election may slow down the process from the government side, we are very close to achieving our goal," Mr. Gurm says. "We strongly feel that we have the support needed from the private sector."

According to IIFA director Andre Timmins, the decision will be made by February. "We consider the existing Indian population, exposure to [or] interest in Indian cinema, tourism initiatives [and] interest in the business of Indian cinema," he says in an e-mail.

Although many Indian movies have featured Canadian landscapes such as Niagara Falls and the Rocky Mountains, as well as Toronto and Vancouver cityscapes, he hopes that official discussions between the two countries will encourage more Bollywood productions in Canada.

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