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Excitement among Singaporean cinema buffs over IIFA Awards

By Fakir Hassen, IANS

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Indian cinema fans here are excited over the arrival of their favourite stars from Thursday to attend various activities linked to the International Indian Film academy (IIFA) over the weekend.

And it is not only the local Indians who are elated, it includes Singaporeans of Malay and, to a lesser extent, of Chinese origin too.

Shops and hawkers on pavements in the suburb of Little India usually stock Tamil music and movies, but the people here are also aware that Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, and a host of other leading stars from the Indian film industry will spend the next few days in the island state.

Besides discussing the industry, the stars would play a football match to raise money for charity, and end it all with some of them walking away with the awards.

Although local Indians are mainly of Tamil origin, Hindi cine stars are well known to them.

"Of course I'm going!" an almost indignant Selvan Munusami told IANS in response to whether he was going to attend any of the events.

Pointing to a huge poster of Preity Zinta on a lamp post next to the stall, where he sells VCDs of Indian movies in Little India, Munusami said she was his favourite leading lady and was sure to win an award. Zinta is one the nominees in the best actress category for her films "Kal Ho Na Ho" and "Koi Mil Gaya".

Not only in Little India, but many of Singapore's busiest streets elsewhere are also awash with posters of Bachchan, Khan and others, exhorting locals to take advantage of the opportunity to see their heroes and heroines live.

At a local fast food outlet, waitress Maryam Selangkan said she had tried very hard to get the day off Thursday to join her cousin and other friends at Changi Airport where Bachchan and many others are due to arrive Thursday morning.

"I have a huge collection of Indian movies on VCD and I love it," said Selangkan, admitting that she did not understand Hindi and followed the dialogues with the subtitles in Malay.

As stars arrive at Changi Airport here Thursday, they will sign on a special wall dedicated to Bollywood, which will become a permanent feature at the airport.

IIFA is hosting the event in partnership with the Singapore Tourism Authority, which was delighted that all tickets to the main event -- the IIFA Awards at the Singapore Indoor Stadium Saturday -- have been sold out.

Advertisements are now exhorting people to use the only other opportunity left for them to see the movie stars live -- a celebrity soccer match of teams headed by Anil Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt at the Jalan Besar Stadium here Friday evening.

Proceeds from the match will go to the IIFA Foundation, which provides assistance to families of people in the film industry who are killed or injured while working.

Also benefiting the foundation will be a private auction of Bollywood memorabilia at a closed dinner for leading businessmen from all over the world. Some of them are expected to fly in for the event in their private jets, according to Sabbas Joseph of Wizcraft, which coordinates the IIFA Awards.

A further contribution to the foundation will be the money raised from the sale of the third reprint of a book on the life and times of screen icon Amitabh Bachchan, who is also the IIFA Brand Ambassador.

Joseph said from an international media contingent of just three at the first IIFA Awards in London in 2000, there are more than 200 reporters from nearly a dozen countries this time.


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