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