Sunday, January 16, 2011

12th Zee Cine Awards 2011, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore (Part 1)

For the Indian Diaspora, sometimes Bollywood is the only answer to their spiritual emptiness. In the persona of the film stars, like Crusoe marooned in an island, they catch the glimpse of a ghost ship and sigh for their motherland.

Bollywood frenzy

When I heard about the 12th Zee Cine Awards to be held in Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands on 14 January 2011, I knew that the Indians from the island would be whipped into frenzy. I could not forget the IIFA Awards that were held here in 2004. It was such a hit that all tickets were sold out within hours of opening of the booking website.

The same happened with Zee Cine Awards. In a blink, all 5,000 tickets were snapped up and I heard people complaining that the show was sold out. The Business Times ran a story on this ticket frenzy, reporting that despite the expensiveness of the ticket (ranging from $197 to $1,000), people were willing to pay anything to get a chance to be a part of this gala evening. On mass demand, the organizers arranged for an extra 3,000 seats in an additional hall (Hall C, Sands Expo and Convention Centre) for a ticketed simulcast of the show. They were going for $40 a seat.

Just out of curiosity, I checked the availability of tickets on eBay. Some blokes were hawking the show tickets for two to five thousand dollars a piece. Whoever they were, they must be fans of Gordon Gekko.

Press briefing before the show

Zee Network and Marina Bay Sands Singapore had arranged a press briefing before the show. The briefing was to start at 4 p.m. but it didn’t kick off until about 4.30 p.m. Nearly one hundred journalists from Asia participated in it (I could hardly find anyone from the Indian press. I guess Zee wanted everything exclusive to itself for the Indian audiences).

Punit Goenka, CEO, Zee Enterprises and Michael A. Levin, President and Chief Operating Officer of Marina Bay Sands, spoke to the media for about half an hour. Welcoming Zee with their Bollywood awards show, Levin said that Marina Bay was proud to host this event, the Oscars of Indian cinema. Zee and Marina Bay Sands have been working together for a while for some of Zee’s TV programmes, but it is for the first time that Zee Cine Awards is being held in the Sands ballroom—Asia’s largest ballroom.

This is the 12th edition of the award, said Goenka. “This is the sixth time the award goes international,” said Goenka. It has gone to London, twice, and to Dubai and Mauritius before coming to Singapore.

When asked what the show will be about, he said that Zee Awards show is known for its star-studded extravagance. He reeled out names of stars such as Shahrukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Priyanka Chopra, and Hrithik Roshan who were going to be a part of the show.

Giving the background of the award, he said that Zee Cine Awards is the only award of its kind that is based on jury and viewers’ choice. This year’s awards are based on five million audience votes, Goenka revealed.

Each year, Zee’s awards team prepares for the show for 12 months. “After today’s show ends, the team will start preparing for next year’s awards,” Goenka said.

Goenka emphasized that Zee Cine Awards’ specialty was its innovativeness. “Each year, we have something innovative,” he said. “This year we have superstar Akshay Kumar hosting the awards show and this is the first ever time he is doing this.”

Shobha Tsering Bhalla, editor and CEO of India Se magazine, asked why award shows like this always featured the same raft of stars such as Shahrukh Khan, Akshay Kumar, Priyanka Chopra, and so on? Why not thespians like Amir Khan who command a lot of respect and fan following all over the world?

“Amir is a dear friend of mine,” Goenka said, amused by the question. “His stand on award shows is well-known. He does not attend award shows. We ask him every year and ever year his answer is the same. When he changes he mind, we will be happy to have him in our show.”

The surprise trick-ending of the press briefing was Shahrukh Khan, who trotted into the media room, sending gasps from the members of the press. Everybody trooped in around the podium area. Luckily, I was right in the front so I got a close glimpse of the star: dark shades, a blue long-sleeve T-shirt, and faded denims.

I got to ask him the first question. What was he going to perform in the show and how were his new films, Don 2 and Ra.1, coming along? King Khan was in a sporting mood so gave a long-winded answer. He said he was going to perform Noor-e Khuda and Sajda from My Name is Khan. He also said that shooting on both his new films had progressed very well and he would be back in Malaysia in February and March to shoot for Don 2. I am sure that piece of news would be honey to his fans in Malaysia!

Shahrukh answered one more question about his kids (how he would love to bring them over to Singapore to learn a few things here) and then the press briefing was declared over. The next event on the cards was the Red Carpet.

The red carpet

After the press-briefing the journalists were escorted to the red carpet hold up area—it was on the same floor as that of the Sands Ballroom. A red carpet was laid in a U-shape on the corridor’s floor; it led off from a passage where Zee TV’s red carpet anchors stood in waiting, and tapered off into another passage that probably led to the Ballroom’s stage area.

The carpet was covered by transparent plastic. It had rained in the afternoon, so perhaps the organizers were taking care to keep the carpet unsoiled. Or was a standard practice? I had no idea.

There was time yet for the stars to arrive for the red carpet so I dashed out to quench my thirst at Fuse in Tower 2. That’s where I met some unhappy looking Indians who had their eyes fixed on the lift lobby. They were standing in the ‘star-gazing area’ to catch a glimpse of the stars. Did they see anyone so far? I asked a few of them. Nope, nothing yet, they said. They were holding cameras in their hands, ready for that lucky moment.

The show was to start at 8 p.m. so when I came back to the red carpet area around 7.20 p.m. stars had started to walk the red carpet. There was a crowd of journalists flanking the red carpet; some stood behind the line of journalists over a ramp to get a clear view. I squeezed myself at the head of the line where I could see the stars entering the corridor. Zee TV anchors, a boy with long hair and a girl in sari, stopped the stars for their soundbites before letting them walk on the carpet. Where I stood, there were TV crews from Malaysia, Reuters, and MediaCorp. A foreign crew was so well-prepared that a Chinese girl with a mike, the team’s anchor, carried cheat sheets with colour photos of stars with their names and she tried to match the face of every star who walked the carpet with photos on her sheet. What a painful guess work?

Up, close and personal, I could see almost all the stars, except Priyanka Chopra, walking the red carpet that evening: Deepika Padukone, Rishi and Neetu Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha with his daughter Sonakshi, Boman Irani, Shahrukh Khan, Karan Johar, Aishwarya Rai, Hrithik Roshan and Suzanne, Arbaz Khan, Sonu Sood, Arjun Rampal and Mehar, Akshay Kumar and Sajid Khan, and so on. Barely anyone could recognize Aditya Roy Kapoor. The girl with the cheat sheet was confused on seeing him. Who is he? she asked. I recognized his face but I had forgotten his name.

The media went crazy when Shahrukh walked the red carpet. One of the lights of the Reuters crew (was it some other TV channel?) toppled over. Thankfully, it didn’t cause anyone any damage. A 938 Live reporter was walking up on the ramp, giving a live account of the stars sizzling on the red carpet.

I didn’t worry about missing out on Priyanka: I know how she looks like because I had seen her working when she was shooting for Krissh in Singapore. What I saw on the red carpet in about an hour were only a handful of stars (Bollywood is so big) but I must tell you that honestly I had never seen so many stars at such a close range before this evening. I am too old to be star-struck but it was great fun as an experience. What was most striking about them? Yes, they exuded charisma. They were all slickly dressed and they looked slimmer and handsomer than how they usually looked on the silver screen. Deepika has beautiful light eyes and Aishwarya is so heartbreakingly beautiful! I was wondering how Abhishek could fall asleep in the same bed with this legendary beauty? I hope he doesn’t turn into an insomniac.

To be continued (Read Part 2 here)


srkaddict said...

Thanks for that! And especially for the photos: all the sites use old ones... I have one question: did SRK say anything about Twitter at the conference? There are articles... But I tend to believe you more than all those rubbish gossip sites!!!

Zafar Anjum said...

Dear SRKaddict, SRK did not say anything about Twitter. When asked why he does not respond to Twitter queries, he laughed it away. Thanks.

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Suzzane looks gorgeous with Hrithik...

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