Bollywood in Tampa: Who's Who at IIFA

A quick primer on some of Indian cinema's biggest starts who'll be in Tampa for the International Indian Film Academy Awards.

Some locals might be wondering what, exactly, is the big deal about the International Indian Film Academy awards taking place in Tampa.
Who are these people? What are these movies? But the event is actually bringing some of the biggest names in one of the biggest movie-making markets on the planet to our own backyard; imagine Nicholson, Clooney, Spielberg and the rest of Tinseltown’s brightest stars traveling to an awards show in Kuala Lumpur, and you’ll start to get the picture.

Many of the events this weekend, other than Wednesday’s IIFA Stomp at Curtis Hixon Park and the weekend-long IIFA Expo at the Convention Center, are either exclusive (IIFA Rocks) or expensive (the two awards shows). But if you want to join the paparazzi on the Green Carpet (not Red — the awards switched to green as part of an environmental initiative in 2007), gawking is free of charge.
Here’s a guide to ten of IIFA’s most famous faces, plus a few stateside interlopers.

Deepika Padukone. The daughter of a champion badminton player, Padukone (pictured above) is one of Bollywood’s most popular actors, as well as a model and owner of her own fashion line. Her films include Om Shanti Om, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Chennai Express and Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela.

Shabana Azmi. Actor and activist Azmi has been involved in Indian cinema since the mid-’70s, and is widely regarded as one of the subcontinent’s most talented performers. She is at IIFA primarily for the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum, meeting to strengthen business ties between India and the U.S.

Vidya Balan. This actor has been recognized for helping break with traditional female stereotypes in Indian cinema, and has won a National Film Award along with multiple Screen and Filmfare Awards. She will be hosting the Master Class Panel along with Kevin Spacey on Saturday.

Madhuri Dixit-Nene. A Mumbai native and superstar known for her dancing ability as well as her acting, she has appeared in such films as Tezaab, Dil, Saajan and Anjaam, among many others.

Farhan Akhtar. Multi-hyphenate Akhtar is the son of film-industry parents. His jobs include screenwriting, producing, acting, lyric writing and television hosting, and he kicked off the current millennium by delving into directing with 2001’s award-winning Dil Chahta Hai.

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. Grandson of iconic Muslim Qawwali singer Fateh Ali Khan, this Pakastani vocalist has made a name for himself as a Bollywood and Lollywood (the Pakistani film industry) performer. He will be singing at the IIFA Magic of the Movies and Technical Awards event.

Anupam Kher. Popular actor Kher has appeared in nearly 500 Indian films, as well as movies from other countries, such as Bend It Like Beckham and Silver Linings Playbook. He has also won the Filmfare Award for Best Performance in a Comic Role five times, an industry record. He’s in town to screen his directorial debut, the short film I Went Shopping for Robert De Niro.

Shatrughan Sinha. Actor and politician Sinha has been called one of the most unconventional performers in Hindi cinema. He has also hosted and guest-judged on a few television programs. He is going to be given a special award for Outstanding Contribution to Indian Cinema at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday.

Saif Ali Khan. The son of an actor mom and cricket-champion pop, this gentleman is one of Bollywood’s most popular actors himself. (He’s also a producer.) Along with Vir Das, Khan is reprising his role as host of the weekend’s main event, the awards themselves.

Vir Das. Comedian and actor Vir Das is back to play host for the IIFA awards, along with Saif Ali Khan. Das was educated at Knox College in Illinois — where he first began performing stand-up — and later Harvard. He has since experimented with improv, produced six specials of his own comedy and appeared in various films.

And.. the Americans:

Kevin Spacey. The Oscar winner and House of Cards star will lead Saturday’s Master Class with Vidya Balan. Don’t expect to get up close and personal with Frank Underwood, though; the class is limited to “the IIFA Film Fraternity (the people that make and produce the films),” says a spokesperson, “as well as some celebrities.”

John Travolta.
He’ll be feted as the “Most Popular All Time International Star in India” during the big awards show on Saturday night. Let’s just hope he doesn’t have to present any awards (because if he had a hard time with “Idina Menzel”...) 

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