Toronto had been sizzling this weekend, and it’s not the heat. (In fact, it’s been rather cloudy these days.) The fact that Bollywood had descended here for the IIFA Awards on Saturday had raised the temperature to a considerable degree. Not only were the Canadian news channel hosts beaming from ear-to-ear whenever they brought up the topic of Bollywood — calling it the Indian ‘Academy’ awards — every Canadian channel battled against each other to hold some kind of debate about Bollywood and its surging impact on the world. So much that, at some point I wondered… was I in Canada or in India? I have never seen Canada ever being so euphoric even about its own ice-hockey match!
On this glitzy Saturday, conversely, a humble Anti-Corruption March was organized by some conscious NRIs near the awards venue, a while before the gaudy ceremony sparked off. Vis-a-vis this stench of wealth that almost oozed out of the NRIs’ pockets, this campaign became rather an attempt to bemuse wealthy Indians who were thronging the Rogers Center primarily for a pompous Saturday night-out.
Their sprightly walk was interrupted as they were offered pamphlets and leaflets, organizers asking them to join the awareness against corruption in India. Some gracefully acknowledged the pamphlets with their manicured hands, and dropped them in the nearest bin; some looked shocked that India, at all, has ‘corruption’, and a few read the message curiously… stopping on their lofty-heeled tracks! On the whole, this rally had managed to distract the NRIs and bring a curious diversion to the spectacle. They were neither remotely aware of India being corrupt or poor, nor did they want to be aware.
I was a part of the humble walk and after a point, wondered what I was there for. I gaped at NRIs stepping off their Cadillacs and Limousines and striding into the ceremony on their Prada heels and Chanel suits (or am I dated?). Their world, I guess, began with designer clothes and ended — luckily for India — with Bollywood. Foreigners, I repeat, foreigners (read Canadians) sold tickets in ‘black’ outside the center for $200! They shouted: “Bollywood tickets, Indian film tickets”, fully understanding the meaning and impact.
Amid this gargantuan fervor, the anti-corruption campaign trickled from being rather diminutive in appearance to vanishing altogether, when the squeals intensified around. I found some of the rally-participants leaning over the barricades to get a glimpse of the stars… their objective, let’s say in these ‘Harry Potter’ days — obliterated!
Canadian weekends are usually boring. Grocery, cleaning, washing and cooking and courteous calls to their next prolific acquaintances take up the weekends. Next to that, this kind of grandeur came to them rather as a stupefying shock. As I waited to get back home from the rally, I watched the Canadians sipping tea, leaning on their glass balconies near the venue, watching the furor below.
When I called up my phone company to subscribe to the channel which was telecasting the ceremony live, the lady said: “I must write down this channel number… there has been so many calls!” The airport too, on Saturday, evidently was more vacant than usual.
Not only the Indians, I think at least a quarter of the spectators at the ceremony were Canadians. Some of them even ‘coiled’ Satya Paul sarees around themselves. Of course, the show was repugnant as usual, with the stars making fool of themselves in foreign soil.
Hollywood stars like Cuba Gooding Jr pranced with Bipasa Basu on stage and expressed a wish to act in Bollywood films. Brett Lee is already in one, you must be knowing, and Hillary Swank came on stage to distribute awards.
So, say what you must about ‘running-around-trees’ Mr Russell Peters, the tsunami called Bollywood has arrived. NRIs may not be aware that India is still drowned in poverty and corruption, but the ‘matkas’ and ‘jhatkas’ are ready to give Hollywood a run for its dollars! 🙂