India's 'Bollywood Oscars' in Florida for U.S. debut

Fri Apr 25, 2014 2:36pm EDT
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By Saundra Amrhein

TAMPA, Florida (Reuters) - Celebrities and dignitaries from India and the United States descended on Florida this week for the "Bollywood Oscars," an awards event making its first-ever U.S. stop with the aim of creating deeper ties between the two countries.

The International Indian Film Academy's awards show set for Saturday has been compared to the Super Bowl in terms of its security needs, traffic management and planning. But its expected worldwide viewership of 800 million far surpasses the championship American football game's 111.5 million viewers on average in 2014.

The film academy's choice of Tampa, home to Florida's third-largest South Asian community, to host its first U.S.-based awards show in the event's 15-year history came as a happy surprise to some fans.

"I jumped out of my seat," said Rubia Qureshi, 22, a local resident who grew up watching Bollywood films, known for their distinctive and elaborate song-and-dance performances. "I'm the biggest fan."

Qureshi and her mother, who is of Pakistani heritage, joined hundreds of others eager to snap photos of movie stars as they arrived at the Tampa airport and walked the industry's signature green carpet. Fans were so excited at the arrival of actress Deepika Padukone on Wednesday that they knocked over a security barrier.

Other celebrities taking part in the event include American actors John Travolta and Kevin Spacey as well as India's Anil Kapoor, best known to U.S. audiences for his 2008 role in "Slumdog Millionaire," and Shah Rukh Khan, an actor who has more than 7.4 million followers on Twitter.


The star sightings have created a buzz, but perhaps more exciting to local officials is the potential economic impact of hosting the awards as well as the prospect of building stronger business, cultural and tourism ties with India.   Continued...

Bollywood Actress Priyanka Chopra (C) and Actress Sonakshi Sinha and Anil Kapoor (R) entertain the crowd ahead of the 15th International Indian Film Academy Awards in Tampa, Florida April 24, 2014. REUTERS/Mohammed Jaffer-SnapsIndia