Sri Lanka is gearing to host the International Indian Film Academy event – a prestigious film roadshow. IIFA – which organizes the roadshow event, is an effort by prominent personalities from the Indian movie industry – predominantly from the Hindi language segment with an objective of promoting Indian cinema globally. The event in Sri Lanka is planned to be held in Colombo between June 3 to 5. Popular actor and IIFA brand ambassador Mr Amitab Bachan was in Colombo to launch the media awareness initiatives.
Sri Lanka’s Rajapakse regime seem to be on an initiative to build a positive brand image for the nation after the dirty war that ended in 2009. It is evident that Sri Lankan diplomats have been advised to look for opportunities to host international events that will allow the government to project a new image for the regime and the nation. Clearly, a damage control initiative to divert international attention away from the gruesome war crime allegations the regime is facing. Sri Lanka failed to
The infamous Internet video showing naked blindfolded unarmed civilians being shot and killed by Sri Lankan armed forces has just made its rounds within UN circles. The UN experts announced recently that the video is authentic. The opposition leader and ex Army Chief, Sarath Fonseka who was willing to talk to international bodies about the war crimes was immediately arrested and put in military prison.
Mr Bachan in an interview to NDTV stressed the significance of “diversity” in the region – a point that might snub Rajapakse who has been campaigning “Single” identity to all Sri Lankans. Mr Bachan was articulate and at the same time naïve in making certain observations and recommendations for the nation. Mr Bachan’s speech made him sound like an unwilling spokesperson for Rajapakse’s philosophy of a single nation with single identity. Mr Bachan once a Congress MP, has not been as successful in Politics as he has been in the tinsel world. In a recent interview with Pranoy Roy of NDTV, Mr Bachan confessed his failure in Politics.
Sri Lanka in its effort to host international events should have made a compelling offer by means of discounts and premiums that the IIFA board could not turn down. Sri Lanka was barred from hosting the commonwealth games earlier because of its bad Human Rights records. Sri Lankan delegates are lobbying hard to get the Common Wealth games hosted in 2018 in Southern Sri Lanka port city Hambantota.
Previous IIFA events have also been held outside India in an effort to attract international audience to the growing Hindi film industry. Hindi movies are big success globally in the recent decades and more Hindi movies are made around global themes to appeal the affluent Non Resident Indian markets across the globe. It was earlier speculated that the IIFA event were to be held in South Korea. There must have been some political pressures from the Indian administration that must have made the board shift to Colombo.
Indian movie industry is a conglomeration of various language movies. Mumbai – the hub for Hindi and Marati movies, often attracts talents from across the nation and several South Indian artists have indeed made it big here. The Tamil movie artists role in exposing the genocide in Sri Lanka is well known. Almost all leading Tamil actors including Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan, have came openly against the Sri Lankan regime. Several popular Tamil directors including National Award winning Barathiraja, Cheran and Ameer were in the fore front organizing rallies to stop the war during early 2009. It is learnt that both Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan were furious to see them being invited to the event. The invitation came from none other than Mr Bachan himself. Most senior Tamil actors are known to have rejected the invitation. It should be no surprise if none of the South Indian artists attend the IIFA event in Colombo.
The Tamil movie industry has indeed built a global market for itself in the past decade. Several Directors and Producers of Tamil movies engage professional Public Relation agencies for the world wide promotion of their movies. Directors like Shankar formulates his PR initiatives well ahead of his movie releases. With the mega budget & much awaited Endhiran (Robo) planned to release this year, Shankar – known not just for his creative vibes but also for his business acumen, should have already advised his crew to stay away from IIFA event so as to keep his overseas box office revenue intact. Aishwarya Rai’s participation in the event might be blocked from the South Indian media to avoid any avert reactions from the Tamil audience to the movie Robo, in which she performs the lead role. Tamil movies rake in millions of US dollars from overseas market – lions share of which is comprised of Sri Lankan Tamils. It is common knowledge in Chennai that any artist with hopes of a career in the Tamil movie industry would want to stay away from anything even remotely related to the Rajapakse regime.
It is interesting to note the media hype around Maniratnam’s participation in IIFA event in Colombo. Raavan – Maniratnams bilingual venture named after the epic character from Ramayana hopes to make big revenue across India and also globally. Now, speculation is ripe that the Tamil version starring Vikram would get a dent in the box office if promoted from the Colombo event. Maniratnam had planned to launch the film in the IIFA even prior to Colombo being selected as the venue. Mr Bachan who’s son Abishek Bachan stars in the movie, tried to downplay any significance or relation between the movie (Raavana) and Sri Lanka. Mr Bachan – while asked if there is any significance with the movie Ravan and IIFA being held Sri Lanka said there is nothing common between the two.
While the Tamil film fraternity might have rejected the idea of an Indian Film event in Sri Lanka, most Hindi stars do not seem to have any qualms in attending the event in-spite of the bad reputation the country has earned in recent times globally. While most Indian media, especially the English media is in a perpetual denial mode, in reporting the human rights violations in Sri Lanka, it is quite easy for the Hindi stars to convince themselves to visit Sri Lanka and play a role in Rajapakse’s damage control propaganda. Amithab in his inaugural speech already sounded more or less like a Sri Lankan’s diplomat trying to downplay the ethnic turmoil in the nation by explaining how peace and tranquility prevails in the country.