Do the Tampa

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By t2 with the stars and stargazers at IIFA 2014 in Tampa, Florida Text: Priyanka Roy Pictures: Pabitra Das
  • Published 27.04.14
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The 15th IIFA Awards got off to a blockbuster start on Thursday afternoon with the unveiling of Do Da Tampa, the theme track of the award, the first ever in its 15-year history, at the Hilton Hotel in Tampa, Florida. Anil Kapoor, perpetually in My name is Lakhan mode and one of the forces behind getting the award extravaganza to the US this year, grooved to the infectious track composed by local percussion talent Ravi Drums, even as Priyanka Chopra and Sonakshi Sinha cheered him on.

Priyanka, who has been in the US for a while now promoting her third single I Can’t Make You Love Me, has been visiting Tampa over the last few months and has been Bollywood’s most famous face in this city of tall skyscrapers and pristine beaches.

“This will be your most entertaining weekend ever… Bollywood will ensure that,” was Priyanka’s promise to Tampa even as Sonakshi, looking like a million bucks despite the jet lag, gushed: “IIFA has only become bigger and better after making its debut in the US.”

The event also witnessed the launch of Sufi maestro Ustad Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s new album Back2Love.

Representing Tampa were mayor Bob Buckhorn and Santiago Corrada, the president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. A starry presence from Hollywood was that of actor-director Stephen Baldwin, better known as Alec Baldwin’s younger brother.

The IIFA Awards will conclude with the main awards ceremony on Saturday (Sunday, IST) with more than 25,000 fans expected to turn up to watch Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone, Madhuri Dixit, Ranveer Singh, Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor and many others. The Hollywood presence will be in the form of two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey and Saturday Night Fever man John Travolta.

t2 clicks from Florida

Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi
Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Gulshan Grover

 

Siddharth Kannan, Shivangi Kshirsagar, Resul Pookutty and Anupam Kher at the workshop and premiere of I Went Shopping for Robert De Niro

Lisa Wright had been waiting for this day for close to a year: the day her city of Tampa would become Bollywood. On Thursday, Lisa, a 16-year-old college student who also works part-time at a fast food eatery in downtown Tampa, was among fans waiting at the Tampa Theatre to get a glimpse of the stars who trooped in bright and early –– at 10am –– for the first event of the three-day IIFA weekend, in the Florida city.

Kick-starting the Bolly extravaganza, in its 15th year, was the world premiere of I Went Shopping for Robert De Niro, a 29-minute short film directed by Anupam Kher and starring students of his acting school An Actor Prepares. The curiously titled film, conceptualised by Shivangi Kshirsagar of the acting school, was summed up by Kher as “a tribute to the greatest actor in the world… Mr Robert De Niro”.

“Robert De Niro is not only a superb actor, but also a great human being whose life and work has influenced millions in numerous ways. There are so many of us who became actors after watching Raging Bull and Taxi Driver,” Kher, who shared screen space with the two-time Oscar winner in the 2012 film The Silver Linings Playbook, told t2 on the sidelines of the premiere.

The backstory? Before landing up on the set of The Silver Linings Playbook, Kher had told two of his students, including Shivangi, to buy a gift for De Niro. The experience of choosing a gift for The Man was a daunting task for the two and that’s what is encapsulated in this film. “We were told by Mr Kher to find a gift that matched Mr De Niro’s personality, but we quickly realised that he really doesn’t have a personality outside his films. We just know him as Jake La Motta (Raging Bull) or Travis Bickle (Taxi Driver) and the hundreds of other characters he has brought alive on screen,” Shivangi, who is also credited with the story and screenplay, besides taking on the lead role, told t2. For those curious about the gift bought for De Niro, it was a Shiva statue.

Turning up to support Kher in his second directorial venture, after Om Jai Jagdish in 2002, were some of his closest pals from the industry –– Anil Kapoor to David Dhawan, Rajkumar Hirani to Riteish Deshmukh, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi.

“Anupam Kher is such a consummate actor and that only shows up in the way he’s made this film. I love the way he’s shot guerrilla style on the streets of Mumbai,” Shabana Azmi told t2 after the screening.

The biggest cheers, as expected, were for Anil Kapoor. “I have been associated with this film from the time he thought of it and I am so glad to see Anupam Kher the director in as fine form as he is as an actor,” said Kapoor, looking dapper in a grey jacket and dark glares. “Yes, Anil and I are each other’s emotional anchors, but it’s not a friends-for-benefits relationship,” quipped Kher, with a naughty wink.

And has De Niro, who had a “best of luck” message for “Anupam” at the beginning of the short film, watched it yet? “He has, but he’s a man of few words and just said one thing: ‘It’s terrific,’” said Kher.

For Lisa the Bolly buff, it was a morning well spent. “I thought Anil Kapoor looked even younger than he does on screen and Riteish was so cool… I shook hands with him and posed for pictures,” said Lisa, looking forward to seeing her favourite Bolly stars make Tampa their home this weekend. “And I hope I can take a selfie with Farhan Akhtar,” dimpled Lisa, waving a picture of the Bhaag Milkha Bhaag man.