IIFA 2011 Toronto Re-cap From an Insider!


Our woman on the ground for IIFA 2011 in Toronto was Syma Shah, who herself was involved in helping out with several IIFA parties, including the IIFA Rocks at the Liberty Grand. So we thought we’d ask her to give us a play-by-play of what she saw happen throughout her time at IIFA and give us a personal take on the events leading up to the big awards show.

IIFA in Toronto on stage

By Syma Shah

Photos: Courtesy of Kavita Suri





IIFA IIFA IIFA…that’s all one will have heard from June 23 – 25, 2011 – whether you like Bollywood or not!  The entire city of Toronto definitely had IIFA fever.  Toronto played host to four days of Film, Conference, events, festivals, parties and programming.

Here’s my recap of the IIFA Weekend.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stars started pouring in on Thursday at the Royal York Hotel.  Media and crowd frenzy galore!

There was a movie premiere “Double Damhaal” in Brampton followed by the opening IIFA reception at the Carlu – by invite only!  There was also the official IIFA Green Carpet Party at Liberty Grande.  This party was hosted by Filmi founder Dinesh Sachdev .  This was an industry reception of the who’s who of Toronto’s eclectic bunch of industry peeps, film makers, producers, actors, etc.  The party at Liberty Grande was DJ’d by our very own DJ Jiten, DJ Amita and DJ Riyad.  Spinning to Bollywood, bhangra and live music from the Dhol Circle – There were Bollywood go-go dancers hanging from the ceiling a la Cirque du Soleil style. Most of the stars were mingling at the Thomson Hotel, Carlu or getting rid of their jet lag in their hotels.

Friday, June 24, 2011

There was absolute pandemonium at the Royal York Hotel as Shahrukh ‘King’ Khan, checked in.  I’ve never been a huge Shahrukh Khan fan but watching him in action did remind me of the absolute Star Power that he is.  He was calm, cool, collective, and most of all humble. He made direct eye contact with people, and even made fans faint upon sight.  Although there are always two sides to a story.  I have also heard that he was rude to people backstage – according to some of the IIFA Volunteers.

IIFA green carept interviews

In the afternoon, many stars showed up for the movie premiere of ‘Chillar Party’. Then at the Rose Theatre in Brampton, there was a ceremony held to name a street ‘Raj Kapoor Crescent’ in honour of the legendary actor- Raj Kapoor.

There was a media conference in Toronto to honour  Shahrukh Khan where Mayor Rob Ford presented him with a Toronto flag on behalf of the City of Toronto.  There were buzz events going on in Mississauga, (free event which included fashion show, music, etc.)

A Global Business Forum took place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, which was moderated by IIFA’s Sabbas Joseph and where the Member of Parliament of India, Mr. Shashi Tharoor, was present along with many other business leaders including Benjamin Tal of CIBC (one of the key sponsors for IIFA in Toronto).  This was followed by a High-Tea which was hosted by the Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The day ended off with the superb ‘IIFA Rocks’ show at the Ricoh Coliseum, where several Bollywood and local singers and stars performed. IIFA rocks show was an incredibly produced show which consisted of a fashion show, music and entertainment.  Amongst the highlights of the show, were Jermaine Jackson; our local Shweta Subram, Sonu Nigam, fantastic duo Salim & Suleman, hosted by Karan Johar (film producer and host of “Coffee with Karan”) and many others.  Everyone I have spoken to have unanimously agreed that the IIFA Rocks show was definitely better than the actual IIFA Awards show.

In the evening, there was a dinner/dance for the stars at Liberty Grande – which was invite only.

There was an after party at Muzik night club with Arjun Rampal, Dino Moreo, Zayad Khan and DJ Aqueel. (4000+ guests were at this party). Esha Deol also showed up.   It was the first time that Muzik nightclub had a South Asian night.  The club was absolutely packed!

At the same time there was another after party going on at the Sheraton Hotel, with Shahrukh Khan and Vivek Oberoi.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

In the morning there was a music workshop conducted by the best of the industry, Shankar Ehsaan Loy, Javed Akhtar, Vishal Bhardwaj, dynamic duo Salim and Suleman Merchant and in the audience were Subhash Ghai, Shabana Azmi to name a few.  I was truly impressed by all the brilliant music producers, singers etc. that were in town.

Anil Kapoor on green carpet

Green Carpet – Prelude to the Awards!

And now…the moment that the City of Toronto had been waiting for – the actual IIFA Awards!

Being lucky to be walking distance from the Rogers Centre, was an experience in itself. The entire walkway/drive way to the entrance of Rogers Centre, was barricaded with a massive line up of fans and the IIFA labelled cars were filled with stars, just lined up back to back, ready to make their way down the Green Carpet.  Torontonians were lined up screaming and hollering as each of the stars walked out of the cars and down the Green Carpet.  The energy was magical! There were surprise appearances by Hollywood stars Hilary Swank (Academy Award winner) and Cuba Gooding Jr (who was so hyper and excited as he got to present an award with Bipasha Basu).  I even saw Tom Green walk by.  The whole thing was surreal.

The who’s who of the South Asian community were all walking down the Green carpet.  Omni TV attempted to mimick the Oscar “red carpet” coverage and did a decent job of covering the events.  I felt that the hosts lacked some  knowledge of many of the stars and at times asked questions that had me shaking my head but overall have to give them credit, with their inexperience, did a decent job at the coverage of the green carpet event.

Hema Malini on green carpet at IIFA

Highlights for me was watching Hema Malini, (the and only “Dream Girl”); the legendary Asha Bhosle; Sri Devi; Dharmendra; Zeenat Aman and my new love Arjun Rampal.  I’m not going to lie, I’m officially declaring Arjun Rampal the most gorgeous man in Bollywood.  What made him even more gorgeous were his humble demeanor and his obvious love for his wife who was by his side the entire night.


Actors, Boman Irani & Ritesh Deshmukh were the hosts of the show, along with the “King” Shahrukh Khan who the crowd could just not get enough of. They were silly and tried to be funny, but overall lacked the overall ‘oomph’ that the awards needed.

Stars who were present were Anil Kapoor (so handsome and with so much star presence – and hasn’t aged!!), Irfan Khan, Asha Bhosle (who received a lifetime achievement award and ended off her thank you speech with an acapella version of her famous “oh merray sona ray” – which the audience delightfully sang along); Zeenat Aman (who was so classy and STILL looks so amazing), Sharmila Tagore (who received a lifetime achievement award – and mother of actor Saif Ali Khan), Shabana Azmi (elegant and graceful), Dharmendra (who was elated to be on stage receiving his 50 years of achievement as an actor – recited some shar-o-shairee “poetry” in Punjabi and Hindi), brothers Sunny and Bobby Deol (performed a medley of their songs including “jat yamla pagla deevana” with their father Dharmendra), Arshad Warsi, Anupam Kher, Vivek Oberoi, sweet Priyanka Chopra (who won the IIFA Green award – and she also honoured Asha Bholse by performing a dance medly consisting of Asha Bholse songs); sexy and vibrant Bipasha Basu (who EXUDES sex appeal, did a medley of item songs); Mallika Sherawat, Neha Dhupia, Zayed Khan, Lisa Ray, Sri Devi (in her gorgeous red gown – this lady looked absolutely stunning!); Ranbir Singh (who performed his hot number “Avay Avay” and I believe he won an award for best newcomer); Anoushka; Vivek Oberoi; Zayed Khan; Kabir Bedi; Deeya Mirza; and many others.

Our own Premier Dalton McGuinty was one of the speakers at the awards.  I found him to be charming, witty and sincere as he welcomed the IIFA’s and was proud of Toronto and Ontario.  The opening act of the awards was a nice Tribute to Ontario featuring the mosaic of our mixed cultures and ethnicities.

Shahrukh Khan with Premier Dalton McGuinty

The grand finale of the show was a bit anti-climactic for me.  Shahrukh Khan started off doing a small dance number and an interactive dance lesson with the audience.  He was supposed to do a bedazzling performance, but the actor had injured his knee previously and was unable to dance.  He did make attempt to dance, however the grand finale was definitely disappointing to watch.  Overall, the almost six hour show was filled with lots of stars and fun. I wanted to give kudos to the Shiamak Davar dancers – they did a spectacular job!

Still at 2 a.m. it didn’t stop people from filling up the Royal York Hotel to either catch a glimpse of the stars going back to their hotel, or attending the Official After party. People filled up the lobby in attempts to get a ‘wrist pass’ to attend this party.  We saw a tired Rishi Kapoor and wife/ex Actor Nitu Singh walk by.  We saw Bobby Deol whisk by and when asked to stop and pose for a picture he proclaimed sympathetically ‘I’m soooo tired’, but still smiled and waved to his adoring fans.

I’m told that the ‘cool’ party was taking place in Shahrukh Khan’s trailer at the actual awards ceremony.  To my knowledge the party was going on past 6 a.m.!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

On Sunday, the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) honoured the legendary Kapoor family by holding a panel discussion hosted by actor, Anupam Kher they were honouring, the famous Raj Kapoor.

Note to all fans, the TIFF lightbox will be running the retrospective of his movies until August 7.

On Sunday afternoon, as I drove by the Royal York Hotel, there were still screaming fans all being held back by a barricade in hopes of watching the numerous stars arrive and descend from the Royal York.  It really was a spectacular sight.


That brought an end to the fantabulous IIFA weekend.  If you were one of the lucky ones who actually got tickets to this sold out event and be a part of history in the making!  This was also a live pay per view event.

I can be critical of the actual IIFA awards, such as many of the fans and critics were actually disappointed with the almost 6 hour show.  It went on a bit too long.  Some of the ‘fillers’ during the show were boring.  The audio in the actual Rogers Centre was terrible. I am lucky to have good seats, but I felt terrible for the people sitting in the 200’s and 300 sections.  The screens were not large enough for all to have a good view of the show.  Of course, like IST (Indian Standard time) the show started at around 8:40 and ended at 2:15 a.m.  I’m pretty sure fans were tired.  I know I was.  The production of the awards was absolutely spectacular.  The stage was gorgeous!  The content of the awards was less than par.  The hosts (Boman and Ritesh) were not that good at holding the crowd’s attention. Even though I am a big fan of both actors, the content/scripting was not that good.  Most people I talked to indicated that the IIFA Rocks show was better than the actual IIFA awards show.  The bottom line is that the show wasn’t that great, but the energy in the air of the fans and stars was amazing.

There was definitely a lot to see and do this weekend.  Whether you just wanted to catch some celebs at the Royal York Hotel, Thomson Hotel, or attend some cool panel discussions, there was plenty of action to see and do.  Whether you are a fan of Bollywood or not, it was an awesome energy and makes me proud to be South Asian!  We’ve definitely come a long way.

For me, I can still remember watching the famous movies like Kranti, Sholay, Kudrat, Muqadar ka Sikander, Umraojaan, Naseeb (and the list goes on and on) and being riveted by all the Hindi/Indian movies our family would watch on VHS.  Before Bollywood was even called Bollywood is how long I have been a fan.  For me this was an absolute treat and I’m so glad I witnessed it in my city.

Winners of the Awards were as follows:

Shahrukh Khan interview

Best Film – Dabangg

Best Direction – Karan Johar (My Name Is Khan)

Leading Role Male – Shahrukh Khan (My Name Is Khan)

Leading Role Female – Anushka Sharma (Band Baaja Baaraat)

Supporting Role Male – Arjun Rampal (Raajneeti)

Supporting Role Female – Prachi Desai (Once Upon A Time In Mumbai)

Comic Role – Riteish Deshmukh (Housefull)

Negative Role – Sonu Sood (Dabangg)

Debut Male – Ranveer Singh

Debut Female – Sonakshi Sinah (Dabangg)

Best Story – Shibani Bhatija (My Name Is Khan)

Best Screenplay – Dilip Shukla, Abhinav Kashyap (Dabangg)

Best Dialogue – Vishal Bhardwaj (Ishqiya)

Best Music Direction – Sajid – Wajid & Lalit Pandit (Dabangg)

Best Lyrics – Niranjan Iyengar (My Name Is Khan – Sajdaa)

Playback Singer Male – Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (Dabangg – Tere Mast Mast Do Nain)

Playback Singer Female – Mamta Sharma (Dabangg – Munni Badnam)

Outstanding Achievement in International Cinema – Irrfan Khan

Lifetime Achievement Award – Legendary Singer Asha Bhonsle

Outstanding Contribution to Indian cinema – Dharmendra (50 years in cinema)

Outstanding Achievement in Indian cinema – Sharmila Tagore

Best On-Screen Jori – Anuksha Sharma and Ranveer Singh (Band Baaja Baaraat)

Special ‘Green’ Award – Priyanka Chopra

For more on the awards and pics visit: http://iifa.com/toronto2011

About Syma Shah

Syma  has lived in downtown Toronto for over 12 years. She has a passion for arts and culture and hasbeen lead programmer and operations for Masala! Mehndi! Masti! (North America’s Largest South Asian festival). She also programmed the Markham IIFA Buzz festival this year leading up to the big awards. Syma loves volunteering and has recently has become involved with communications for Filmi (Toronto South Asian Film Festival).  She has now launched her own communications/pr/events business.  Syma can be reached at syma@masalamehndimasti.com.

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