Frankly, it was an assignment that didn’t excite me at all. I have always wondered why star-struck fans think that journalists who interview actors or cover Bollywood events have the best jobs in the world. It’s seriously not that great. As someone who loves films but hates chasing film stars, I can vouch for the fact that meeting actors is a thankless job. Personally, it was that part of my work that I hated the most. However, this time I had no choice. IIFA was one of the biggest awards show and duty demanded that I cover it.
Now, I have nothing against Bollywood award nights. It’s fun to watch top stars crack stale jokes on TV, perform the usual dances and pat themselves and their frenemies generously when they win trophies. It’s also fun to watch the faux expressions of surprise and joy on the face of winners whenever an award is announced.
But covering an awards night is another ballgame altogether. Since I had never attended one before, I tried to enthuse myself about the project. It may be fun to see so many celebrities under one roof. If nothing else, at least the travel would be interesting, I told myself as I braced to spend most part of the first weekend of July at The Venetian Macao-Resort-Hotel.
It turned out to be an experience that was… enlightening (for the lack of a better word). I would like to share some lessons that my first Bollywood awards fest taught me.
- The Venetian Macao Is… Ugh!
Yes, the Venetian Macao is a rather ugly hotel. A gigantic structure which doesn’t seem to have a beginning or an end, with ostentatious interiors and loud design, punctuated at every corner by casinos - it had everything that made me want to run away. But there was no option. This was my ‘office’ for the weekend and there was no escaping it.
- The world is full of Bollywood fans:
For all my disdain for filmi events, it was a humbling experience to realise the power of Hindi films. As we know, the world is full of Indians and it appeared a large percentage of them had decided to descend in the Venetian Macau lobby that weekend. Indeed it seemed Macau was a distant cousin of Dubai (where every second person is an Indian)! At times, I had to remind myself several times over that I wasn’t in Mumbai or Delhi or Karama (a Dubai area of, for and by desis)!
- Organisers are irritating but they deserve respect
If there is a worse job than that of a headline-chasing journo, it’s that of an event organiser. The only difference being organisers get pots of money at the end of an event, journos get nothing. IIFA had about 60 media-persons (all Indians) from around the world – radio stations from Auckland, magazines and FM radio from Dubai, lifestyle publications from Hong Kong and of course, leading channels and newspapers from India. Organisers therefore had trouble from all quarters. Every journalist present there wanted access to stars. Everyone wanted an ‘exclusive one on one’. Being organisers, they couldn’t refuse any request neither could they accommodate it. So they did what they do best – say yes to everyone and no to no one. It was tough for them but to their credit, they managed to the best of their ability.
Unfortunately, it often ended being a farce of a star interaction. Here is an example of how an ‘exclusive’ interview with Madhuri Dixit happened. First there was a press conference, followed by the one-on-ones. There was only one Madhuri and far too many journalists. Just the previous day she had cancelled a press meet ostensibly because she was too tired. The result: the one-on-one was finally conducted on stage, and everyone present had a chance to ask two questions in front of others! So much for an ‘exclusive’!
To be fair, there were a couple of interviews that were well organised – in the rooms of stars, with both parties (stars and scribes) in a good mood with a respectful, proper Q n A session. The reason behind this miracle was simple: The stars in question were Chiranjeevi and Kamal Haasan, who do not exactly belong to planet Bollywood!
- Journalists don’t take these events seriously:
Most Indian journalists from India treat Bollywood events (especially ones organised abroad) like a paid holiday. At Macau too, the Indian contingent were seen going shopping, chatting and gossiping with the stars they knew well. Probably because the wise ones knew what award shows are all about. The people who were hungrily moving around for quotable quotes or bytes were NRI media-persons. (Myself included. Oh, how I missed being a true blue Indian journo then!)
- Stars take these shows even less seriously:
For stars, award shows are about fun, performing on stage, being watched on TV and showing off their designer threads. Most of them – the A, B, C and other-listers walked about with an ‘yay, we have come to party’ attitude. The screaming fans were Indians, the stars were Indians (except for a guest appearance by Jean-Claude Van Damme); there were no film screenings or cinematic discussions (save for a couple of workshops). Naturally, it begged the question – where was the ‘film’ in film awards?
- Predicting an award is the easiest game in the world:
How I wish there were bets placed on predicting popular award winners! I would win them hands down! As is well known, guessing winners isn’t mathematics – if a star is present at an awards ceremony or is performing on stage, it means he or she is most likely to get an award. It makes sense too. Why would a big star with an ego the size of planet earth travel all the way just to clap for others?
- The performances ARE great to watch
ALL awards nights are TV events. It’s again no secret that in case of some awards, performances are recorded much earlier and then interspersed with footage from the main night to telecast on TV. But these shows are pretty boring on prime time TV with hundreds of commercial breaks and terrible editing. Comparatively, it is a good experience to watch them live. After all, you don’t get to see Sridevi or Madhuri on stage often. Good production values and a few great choreographed acts were the positives of IIFA this year. The same cannot be said about the script though. Why, just why do Bollywood stars – most of who have a great sense of humour – subject us to inane, silly jokes that don’t even bring a smile to your face is beyond me. For more proof, watch it on TV whenever it is telecast.
FINALLY…: Covering an award is better done from home. There is absolutely no need to travel all the way to hear our actors say the same thing, dance the same dances and put up the same act over and over again. A Bollywood awards night by any other name is just as predictable.