Wednesday , 24 April 2019
It has become a personal mission to ensure that more South African media are equally dazzled by the IIFA experience.

IIFA Diaries With Shalandra Bunseelall

Indian cinema is a serious business and is amongst the largest movie industries in the world. IIFA is a grand celebration of Indian cinema showcased to a global audience. Launched in the year 2000 IIFA is India’s biggest International entertainment event that has successfully built bridges across cinema, communities and nations. This year the host country was Malaysia and my 14th invitation to this glittering entertainment spectacle

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The Preparation: It has become a personal mission to ensure that more South African media are equally dazzled by the IIFA experience. Beside IIFA regular photographer and friend Vicky Naidoo who has supported me for over a decade the newcomers to the IIFA experience included model and local media sensation Neetasha Singh, together with the dynamic TV presenter and rising superstar Revaan Raghununan.

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Model Neetasha Singh, Revaan Raghununan and Shalandra Bunseelall

Day 1: After what seemed like a never-ending journey of travel we finally arrived in the gorgeous locations of Malaysia. IIFA first made a grand appearance in Malaysia in 2002 and yet again the atmosphere of the stars arriving was nothing short of electric.

While we struggle to find our names on the media accreditation list (this happens when you fail to adhere to deadlines), we are quickly greeted by familiar faces with the IIFA PR team who immediately announce us as IIFA loyalist that don’t need media accreditation. With media badges in hand we decide to step out to the streets of Malaysia and we quickly fall in love with Kuala Lumpur.  We reunite with media friends from New Zealand and everything seems perfect. We mentally prepare for the long days ahead

Day 2: The official IIFA weekend begins with the regular press conference. Attended by big name stars like Arjun Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Sonakshi Sinha this is a teaser of the weekend that promises grand memories.

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Hrithik Roshan interviewed by ANN7 crew

Despite being an IIFA veteran, we are still left star struck (Bipasha does that to me). We are treated to exclusive interviews with the stars and this sets the tone for an ambitious and inspiring weekend. The night ends as the green carpet is rolled out for the IIFA Rocks event that is hosted by Ayushman Khuranna and the energetic Parineeti Chopra.

While the technical awards are handed out, it was the first time in many years that I left wondering whether someone had actually forgotten to uphold the IIFA reputation of being professional and technically supreme. The  glitches were nothing short of shocking. This left me sourcing every explanation that this shortcoming was no reflection of IIFA to the newcomers.

The night settles in and we are treated to a beautiful display of performances with the night clearly belonging to Javed Ali and the Nooran sisters that deliver a remarkably brilliant tribute to the music legend AR Rehman. The big surprise was Sonakshi Sinha who made her singing debut with much fanfare and applause. The night ends in true IIFA style. We are left wanting more as we walk the streets around 2am in search of supper.

Day 3: This is the day I have been waiting for. The exciting and power packed premiere of Dil Dhadakne Do, a movie experience that has to rank among my highlights of the weekend. Held at the world famous beauty – the magnificent Petronas Towers, the star studded premiere saw the stars arrive with great excitement. Priyanka Chopra, Anil Kapoor, Farhan Akthar, Shefali Shah, Anushka Sharma and director Zoya Akthar are delighted with the positive feedback for their crazy family drama. The night ends with a fashion show hosted by Vivek Oberoi and Neha Dhupia. Our night ends with another search for supper. The long hours on the green carpet has taken its toll on us and we feel a little grumpy. Supper should fix that.

Day 4: We make a collective decision to skip the music workshop (seen it before, how new can this be) and spend the day shopping in the streets of KL. It proves to be a shoppers paradise after some unnecessary drama with my bank. Feet sore, shopping done – it’s now time to prepare for the big night. While Neetasha heads off to make up and hair, the rest of us hunt for food (as usual).

Finally we arrive at the Putra stadium and are ready be left spellbound with the biggest glitterati. Among the stars that walk the red carpet include Anil Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor, Hirthik Roshan, Sonakshi Sinha, Shahid Kapoor, Bipasha Basu, Lisa Haydon, Madhavan, Shreya Saran, Deepika Padukone, Tiger Shroff, Kriti Sanon and the list goes on.

While Roshan raised the most amount of screams he confirmed an impending holiday to South Africa in July. As expected the big winners included Queen which scooped Best Movie and Best Actress (Kangana was missing), Shahid Kapoor bagged the Best Actor, while Tiger Shroff and Kriti Sanon won the Best newcomers for Heropanti.

Deepika was voted as the Woman of the Year, a category that seemed unnecessary. The night surely left the audiences mesmerised thanks to great chemistry between hosts Arjun Kapoor and Ranveer Singh who have be the amongst the best hosts in the IIFA history. They were outstanding. Leaving the audiences spellbound was Hrithik Roshan with his vibrant dance performance, while Ritesh Deshmukh and Pulkit Samrat also killed the vibes of the night with their poorly executed promotion of their soon to be released Bangistaan.

The night ends in true Bollywood style with a myriad of colours, power packed energy and the most spectacular celebration of cinema. The whispers of the location for next year starts already (a birdie whispered LA). The fantastic four from SA spend the rest of the morning laughing, dissecting the night and enjoying the after effects of this powerful celebration of Indian Cinema that yet again has conquered the fans, the industry, the host country and media from across the world.

Vicky has clicked the most amazing pictures and our social media platforms are going into overdrive. We are hopeful that one day that IIFA will return to SA for the third time, while Revaan is left inspired that he belongs in this glamorous world.

We can’t help but agree. Time check reminds us it’s 5:30am as we lay our heads to dreamland thanks to the IIFA hospitality at the Renaissance Hotel and yet again we are transported to a world of green carpets, stars and cinema.

Day 5: Time to recover. We say farewell to the amazing IIFA team (hats off to the team for sleepless night and handling themselves with such professionalism) and decide to do the most important thing on our minds – SHOPPING.

With that almost done, we laugh our way into a massage parlor. What was meant to be a peaceful time of relaxation turns out to be crazy loud fun. I was convinced that we would be kicked out. As the night unfolds we reflect on the magical memories and the relationships that have been bonded by cinema.

Day 6: Who wants to return home – No one, but we are dragged out of bed to visit the temples and Batu Caves in Malaysia and the experience leaves us spiritually satisfied especially the 43 meter statue of Lord Murugan.

After walking more than 200 steps into the beautiful caves we return to the hotel and make the trip back home. As usual we have great fun as we travel home. We return to cold Johannesburg with great memories, a strong friendship and a bond that has been strengthened thanks to IIFA. Who thought that IIFA was only about Entertainment. While it brings us together to this glamorous world, IIFA has done justice to promote tourism, build media relations, enhance dreams (ask Revaan). I remain an IIFA loyalist forever.

Thank you SHM Group, Prestige Travel, Eastwave Radio, Serendipity Tours and IIFA. Catch some of the highlights on ANN7, this weekend – channel 405 at 4:30pm on Friday and repeated Saturday and Sunday at 2:30pm on East’nStyle


About Neha

You cannot afford to not let me know what's cooking when it comes to Bollywood. I will be working on good things Indian and everything Bollywood. And as my avatar explains, I am kind of a loose nut.

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