The International Indian Film Academy is coming

CL writer Aaron Alper can't wait to get a little Bollywood in the Bay.

When I heard Tampa would be hosting the International Indian Film Academy’s 15th “Bollywood Oscars” in April, I was psyched. India’s biggest stars would be coming to our modest hamlet. There was even talk of Kevin Spacey giving a speech for a Master Class panel in conjunction with the event. Would I go as a journalist? I had no guarantees; but the thought of an event celebrating the diversity of culture in film happening so close to me made me at least feel a little glammy. I mean, stars from other countries are still stars and Bollywood is cool (to get a dose of coolness, YouTube “Mehndi Laga Ke Rakhna” — it’s thunderously entertaining).

Then reported, in essence, that the event was not going well. Everything cool suddenly wasn’t. Hotel rooms weren’t selling out. Gasparilla had a low visibility of interest. It was well written, but it was also very doom and gloom.

“With the event just three weeks away,” Guzzo said. “Some planned events have been canceled, businesses originally partnering in the project have left, and hotel bookings haven’t matched the hype yet.”

I immediately contacted Liana Lopez of, who is handling the IIFA 2014 Itinerary. She assured me the event was still going as planned; in fact, she said any disparaging content in the articles were not directly connected with the events being hosted.

Guzzo also points out that there are local businesses pulling out from the events.

“Some local businesses, on the other hand, signed on for the project only to leave later, including video communication company AVI-SPL, which sent an executive with the Tampa delegation that traveled to last year’s Bollywood awards in Macau.”

Now I realize I am possibly playing a naïve Devil’s Advocate, but personally I am still excited about the IIFA happening. The itinerary looks amazing (and can be viewed here) and certainly doesn’t have any indications of a party that is about to be cancelled.

There are some other concerns that the awards are elitist and not easy for the public to get into. Which I suppose is valid, but only if you’re prone to whining. I think it goes without saying award shows like this are elitist; that’s what makes the whole Big Wheel spin. Any event that is hosting a Master class by Kevin Spacey is going to be a tough gig to eek into.

That said, the problem isn’t necessarily elitism; it’s accessibility. Of course, not everybody can attend award shows, but everyone should feel like they could. The IIFA needs to follow the Golden Rules of modern successful celebrity; make us, the audience, feel included. We want (nay, need) Twitter updates, Facebook chats and please (please!) make an Instagram account (award shows scream for instantaneous photography).

I am still continuing to embrace the excitement and the influx of cinematic research required for classic Bollywood movies. I adore movies and welcome to the chance to engorge myself on the genres and filmmakers of India. (“Guru," “Fanaa” and “Lagaan," I’m told, are essential viewing and are going to be the basis on my upcoming blogs) and I remain hopeful that Tampa Bay will become connected with the international film community. After all, if there are stars shooting around this close to home, some stardust is bound to shimmer down on us common folk!

The IIFA (International Indian Film Academy Awards) is an annual award show that celebrates Indian films and Bollywood culture and will be held from April 23rd-26th in Tampa Bay. For more information visit

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