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My 2012 IIFA Weekend Nightmare

My 2012 IIFA Weekend Nightmare

June 22, 2012

A lesson in how NOT to organise an international Indian film festival.



Ok I won’t lie, I too was caught up in the IIFA weekend hype with several pleasant day dreams about rubbing shoulders with my favourite actors, directors, lyricists and musicians, and discuss the art of storytelling on film with them.

So finding out first hand just how frustrating and draining the IIFA weekend actually was turned out to be a huge let down. It felt almost like someone had cancelled Diwali this year.

Things started to go downhill when I found out that all the events, except the awards ceremony were by invite only. I managed to get an invite to the IIFA music workshop through some friends, but collecting the pass was no easy task, thanks to the lovely IIFA Volunteers, whose sole purpose in life was standing around and being completely useless. When approached for assistance, they would cut you off mid-sentence to start screaming at a supposed celebrity sighting, fiddle with their blackberry, or put their palms in your face to shoo you away.

My palm itched to slap them.

But never mind the frustrating volunteers, I never expected to encounter Indian Strechable Time (IST) in an event this big. Did the IIFA organizers think this was a Kitty Party? I remember showing up for the IIFA Music workshop at 9.30AM as instructed on my invite, only to find 3 people in the room - and not a single organizer. The event itself started an hour and a half later, and people continued streaming in almost an hour after the event started.

I should have taken my cues from the latecomers though, just to spare myself the agony of listening to the music workshop moderator make tasteless comments about a lack of sponsors at this year’s IIFA, and generally resort to his ‘wit’ to impress the audience. I thought the main awards show was going to be better.

Apparently, I hadn’t learnt my lesson yet, and that is you are NOT supposed to show up on time. If you do, the IIFA organizers will punish you for it. The time on the ticket said 7PM, so I (and apparently 75% of the attendees) showed up at 6.15PM, to find my seat and settle down before the show started. Alas, it was not going to be that easy, and I joined the masses standing outside the venue, in stuffy, claustrophobic and long queues, while giving myself anxiety attacks over a potential stampede scenarios. While I was contemplating how much damage I could do to myself by jumping off the 2nd floor balcony and making a break for it, they opened the venue doors - and I found myself pushed into the venue and my seat. It was 7.45PM.

Making a break for it dominated my thoughts for the next 2 hours, primarily because the interminable wait wasn’t halfway done. Bollywood’s brightest decided they were arriving on their own clock with many coming after 8.30PM and some as late as 9PM. There were only 2 celebrities who were on time- Sameera Reddy, and Sharman Joshi. The last to arrive, at 9.15PM were the show hosts, and well without them the show couldn’t start now could it.

I am told that the wait is part and parcel of the Indian movie awards experience, but it was getting really ridiculous.

The IIFA awards finally got into full swing at 9.30PM. While I anchored my bottom to the seat to watch the show, I really wish they’d put 9.30PM as the start time on my ticket, so I could have spared myself the boredom of watching some prissy celebrities saunter in, and send their security detail to chase fans back to their seats with a baton.

I apparently wasn’t thinking ahead, which in hindsight I should have, because if I did I would have indeed made a break for it. You see, the awards ceremony, which started two and a half hours late, ended 2 and a half hours late as well. To be precise, it ended at 1.00AM. The last train and bus out of the venue departed at 12.45AM, and by the time I got out it was 1.30AM. There literally was no way out beyond taking a taxi, or driving. There were easily more than two thousand people waiting for a cab.

The frustration in the air was palpable.

The traffic diversions in place to allow special access to IIFA tag vehicles were not helping either. Not only did the organizers really screw up with their late start, they made it impossible for people to get home.

And while the Bollywood glitterati went back to their hotels in their Bentleys and their BMWs, complete with motorcades, frustrated fans who spent US$350 on a ticket, were spreading newspapers on the open ground to settle in for a nap and wait for the first bus to roll by at 5AM. There were yuppies fighting over stolen cabs, and plenty of crying, hungry and cranky children.

I was among the stranded few who figured it may be quicker to walk the 10 kilometers back to my house than wait 5 hours for a cab. I managed to hitch a ride from a friend along the way, but by the time I got back, it was 2.30AM.

When I awoke 5 hours later, I casually browsed the Indian newspapers online to see if any of the media outlets highlighted the late start. None did, probably because they thought it wasn’t really news. Several IIFA award ceremony veterans told me these delays are quite normal and ‘alright’. But here’s the deal, it is not alright.

I don’t care how big the IIFA is, or how important these so called celebrities are, late coming, throwing diva tantrums and other unprofessional behaviour should not be excused! The IIFA weekend was the first time I was made to feel ashamed to be Indian, in a long time, and it was not a good feeling.

It’s bad enough that many Singaporeans and Southeast Asians associate Indians with being chronically late, lazy and argumentative. Of course all of that is not true, but then in light of the horrible “chalta hai” attitude that seemed to underlie the IIFA Weekend, an Indian organized and run event, how could anyone think otherwise?

Photo credit: ofttimes.com 

19 Comments

  • Dating Thai Girls
    By
    Dating Thai Girls
    07.04.13 09:54 PM
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  • Khadija
    By
    Khadija
    15.07.12 07:02 PM
    The Muscat International Film Festival in Oman (really organised and run by the local Indians) played host to Sanjay Dutt and Amitabh Bachchan not too long ago, and you ought to hear about how disorganised that was too.
  • Khadija
    By
    Khadija
    15.07.12 06:52 PM
    Thank you for being so frank. You ought to see how appalling things are with the most glamorous of brands in India. It's like, O.M.G.
  • megha
    By
    megha
    30.06.12 12:52 AM
    I haven't been to an awards show, but everytime there is a concert here in the US, the show starts atleast an hour late and consequently ends late. Why are we like this? Is it the stars or the organizers?
  • Sunil Deepak
    By
    Sunil Deepak
    25.06.12 05:26 PM
    It sounds like a nightmare! I hope to never go to an event like that!
  • Divya S
    By
    Divya S
    25.06.12 09:00 AM
    @Rickie, thanks for your comment! I just want to add that we're not ALL like that. It therefore felt awful to come across an organization with such unprofessional behaviour which only served to reinforce sterotypes that the rest of us battle on a day to day basis.

    @Beth- I'm not sure of punctuality is WASP culture ;)- because I grew up believing that its common decency, and I grew up in Southeast Asia, where WASPs are insects that sting you repeatedly, and not a community of wonderful people. :P

    I have to agree- people watching was infinitely more entertaining. I found a lot of amusement seeing young men in their tuxedos slowly melting in the tropical heat and humidity.

    @Terry-- at least you got to see SRK! This year's IIFAs didn't have any of the Khans in attendance. ;)
  • Terry
    By
    Terry
    25.06.12 03:17 AM
    Same thing happened at IIFA Toronto:
    started late and ran for five hours.
    But it was worth it. Seeing Shahrukh Khan perform was on my bucket list, and then to see him speak at Yale University, New Haven, CT, was the ultimate for me. I am his oldest and dearest USA fan.
  • Beth
    By
    Beth
    22.06.12 08:05 PM
    This sounds extremely like what I observed happening at the IIFAs in Toronto last year. I know that my personal WASPy North American sense of time and schedules is not the same as IST but the scale of the disorganization and lateness of the IIFAs, even in a city with such WASPy and North American culture overall as Toronto, was a big shock to me. I had so much more fun hanging out at the hotel where the celebs were staying and just doing some people-watching from the lobby than I did at the awards themselves. How sad is that?
  • Rickie Khosla
    By
    Rickie Khosla
    22.06.12 04:03 PM
    I guess we have our own definition of Discipline and Professionalism. And I am not saying that in a nice way.

    Your frustrations were palpable in this article. Thanks for sharing. Looks like you have learned your lesson!
  • Divya S
    By
    Divya S
    22.06.12 03:02 PM
    @Shilpam-- Trust me that's what I'm going to do the next time. In fact, I'm going to TiVo it, and then watch it after forwarding all the commercials, and the useless host/sponsor chitchat. ;)
    @A Singh-- I'm really sorry to hear about your friend's experience and your Air India misadventures (I suspect we've all had one >_<). And yes, Wizpro the event management firm, and IIFA really need to wake up to realize that people aren't going to accept this "chalta hai" attitude anymore.

    Ok I better simmer down- this issue makes me really really annoyed.
  • A Singh
    By
    A Singh
    22.06.12 02:37 PM
    This is not a big surprise to me. A journalist friend of mine covered a similar event in the UK. She was so disgusted at how she was treated (as press, mind you) and how badly organised it was. However, what really irritated her was how the organisers kissed up to the western (and white) journalists. Basically the shitty attitude she had to contend with was at stark odds with the preferential treatment doled out to her white counterparts.

    What this reveals is that the organisers are well aware of their bad behaviour but they seem to think Indians will just put up with it and they only really need to make an effort with non-Indians.

    Reminds me years ago when I once flew with Air India. Most of the cabin crew were quite rude and miserable when dealing with Indian passengers but their faces would magically light up when dealing with the white passengers.
  • shilpam
    By
    shilpam
    22.06.12 01:57 PM
    I'm surprised at your disgust over the un professional way this event was organised, namely because (1) many Indians are at their worst behavior abroad and best avoided as they will drag you down too, to compound the misery if they are actor's then expect no manners or courtesy & (2) these awards are really for the broadcast TV audience where the sponsor's are & not aimed for the sitting audience, most of whom come on free invites and try to attend the after parties. So next time open a nice wine and sit in front of your TV and enjoy :)
  • Kevin
    By
    Kevin
    22.06.12 09:42 AM
    Now that make me think I should watch the event on DVD as soon as it is out.
  • Divya S
    By
    Divya S
    22.06.12 09:40 AM
    @Kevin- of course. The performances were damn good. This year the dance segments were choreographed by Prabhu Deva, and you could tell. The caliber of backup dancers were amazing (some were from his dance academy here).

    Now Prabhu Deva is one Indian who should teach the others the true meaning of professionalism!
  • Kevin
    By
    Kevin
    22.06.12 09:21 AM
    Whoa, I heard the Thais said that so well, I guess IIFA is doing a great job showing the world the way of being indian.
    Well anyway, was there anything positive about the show?
  • Divya S
    By
    Divya S
    22.06.12 09:05 AM
    Given the horrid organization involved, I am not surprised that the lights went out. Bottom line- you need to be better organized for an event to run smoothly.

    I actually overheard some cleaning staff at the venue complain (in Mandarin) about how horribly disorganized the IIFA crew were, and then say all Indians are like that.

    Talk about embarassing. How could I confront them? >_<
  • Kevin
    By
    Kevin
    22.06.12 08:27 AM
    Lol that's funny as hell, I am going to tell that joke to everyone I know. Thank you for that! My sympathies are with your friend too. Well this is going to sounds funny and kinda ironic I guess but after the IIFA Bangkok, I heard the organizers complain that they won't come back to Bangkok because the system is not efficient enough letting them to begin late and so on. On top of that, lights went out during a performance by Dia Mirza. So I guess we escaped the fate of Singapore having to host the awards twice, although if Shah Rukh comes, Bangkok could consider it.
  • Divya S
    By
    Divya S
    22.06.12 06:11 AM
    @Kevin- thanks for your comment! Actually a friend of mine was dancing at IIFA rocks (another huge washout due to their invite only policy), where the show started nearly 3 hours late because the artists came 3 hours late.

    So yes I can more than imagine, and my complete sympathies are with you.

    You know- at the beginning of each IIFA award, they always talk about how fantastic it is that they go to a different city each year.

    I figure the only reason why they do that is because none of the previous host cities want them back.

    I don't know what Singapore was thinking, to host the IIFAs again. ;)

    ~Divya
  • Kevin
    By
    Kevin
    22.06.12 05:53 AM
    I am sorry to hear about your experience, however I have went through the same ordeal myself when they organised the award ceremony here in Bangkok. Unlike you, I was not a part of the audience though, I was one of the volunteer dancers for Singh is King segment for you can imagine what I must have gone through if that's what the audience had suffered.

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