While calls for a boycott of the ongoing IIFA awards, billed as Bollywood’s Oscars, are gathering momentum in India, the protests are nothing more than a faint murmur in the Sri Lankan capital where the three-day event opened on Thursday.
Colombo is playing host to the annual awards which are held in a different city each year -- a sign of Bollywood's efforts to broaden its global appeal.
But it is not a popular choice with some Tamil groups in India. Civil rights groups have said the Lankan government should be investigated for potential war crimes at the end of their three-decade war against Tamil Tiger separatists a year ago. Tamil groups in India have been protesting against the choice of venue for the IIFA Weekend, urging Bollywood stars to boycott the awards.
The South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce has threatened to boycott the films of any Bollywood star who attends the awards. Many of Bollywood’s biggest names including IIFA brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan have chosen not to attend.
But IIFA organisers have brushed off the boycott threat and so have the stars in attendance in Colombo. “We are here to do something good, something that will help people, why should anyone talk about negative things,” actor Salman Khan told Reuters on the sidelines of the event.
“Half the industry is here. How many people will they boycott?” Hrithik Roshan and Bipasha Basu arrived in Colombo on Thursday, with Basu here to promote her new film “Lamha”,
but the stars of two big films releasing in June, “Raavan” and “Raajneeti” stayed away. This would also be the first year that the IIFA itinerary does not feature a film premiere, even though “Raajneeti” releases across India on Friday.
Organisers said they decided not to have a premiere as part of the IIFA Weekend. “Sri Lanka is just coming out of a war and does not have the infrastructure needed to have a premiere,” said Sabbas Joseph of Wizcraft International. “If we wanted to do a world premiere, it should be done the right way.”