Bolly Good Show!

Bollywood royalty came to Toronto this weekend, when the Indian film industry's version of the Oscars hit the Canadian city, sending fans into a frenzy.

    For the first time this weekend the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards were held in North America.

    The city of Toronto in Canada had been gearing up for weeks to host the event. And, for that one night only, Canada's largest city became Bollywood.

    Movie royalty were here, treading the green carpet - not red ('That's so Hollywood darling!') - for this year's IIFA's - Bollywood's version of the Oscars.

    Shilpa Shetty, the beautiful star, came over to our camera position to speak to me, even though she was losing her voice - hoarse from all the interviews she'd been giving.

    "Rule one, never talk to the press," she joked, adding, "Thank you all for watching and thank you all for showing us your love."

    Love for the fans was a common theme among the stars, as they made their way into the Rogers Centre for the pay-per-view event before an estimated global audience of 700 million people.

    Actor Bobby Deol told me: "I wish I could go and shake hands and hug everybody but I can't, it's really overwhelming and I'm really happy."

    Gulshan Grover, an actor who always plays the bad guy, said: "The screams and the love of the Canadian fans validates the decision taken by the Canadian government to bring the Indian cinema and the stars and the talent of Indian cinema the producers and musicians, singers and everybody here tonight."

    Holding the IIFA's in Canada is part of the Indian academy's plans to tap deeper into the lucrative North American market. The plan, it seems, was to go further than simply promoting Indian cinema.

    "It's using Bollywood, leveraging the brand of Bollywood, to leverage the brand of India Inc," said Canadian Bollywood actress Lisa Ray.

    Toronto's hoping to pick up some of the $120m, it's estimated Bollywood spends on making films overseas each year.

    "It's a heck of coup to be able to draw for the very first time the IIFA Awards to North America and have located here in Toronto, Ontario, Canada - it's a big deal," Dalton McGuinty, the provincial premier of Ontario explained.

    There are about 700,000 South Asians in Toronto and they know their stuff when it comes to Bollywood movies. What makes them different from Hollywood's fans? 

    "Who else could turn such a bleak situation into a wonderful party with a simple song and dance but Bollywood," one fan, dressed from head-to-foot in traditional costume, told me.

    In other words - stars, songs, costumes, colour - and a moral tale all the family can enjoy. That's Bollywood and that's why the fans were out in force cheering for their favourite screen idols.


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