TAMPA — If Wednesday's IIFA Stomp festival brought a taste of Bollywood's energy to Tampa, Thursday's IIFA Rocks concert and fashion show at the Tampa Convention Center offered a glimpse of the industry's billion-dollar polish and glamor.
Once it got started — and for a while on the green carpet, there were doubts it ever would — the bilingual ceremony featured lavish fashions from designers both Indian and American, and stars of all magnitudes strutting their stuff down the runway.
The models included a few of Tampa's finest, including Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham, ex-Buc and Survivor' contestant Brad Culpepper, Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Brooke Bennett and Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel. Miss America Nina Davuluri also popped in, wearing a glittering, midriff-baring gown and sari.
But the most popular models were Bollywood stars, such as Anil Kapoor, the dashing Slumdog Millionaire actor who's become a Zelig-like presence around town this week.
After closing out designer Manish Malhotra's pastel-heavy collection, Kapoor urged the crowd to bid on several dresses up for auction, all benefitting the underprivileged Indian village of Mijwan.
"Tonight, please demonstrate that Tampa has a heart bigger than all of America!" he said.
Between runway collections came colorful, dramatically choreographed performances by well-known playback singers; and comedy from hosts Vivek Oberoi and Gauahar Khan, who bantered brightly in both English and Hindi, often within a single joke.
For such an exclusive event, the cavernous convention center hall was nowhere near capacity, with hundreds of empty seats in the back.
But if it bothered the hosts, they didn't show it. Ticketless fans showed them plenty of love outside the ceremony, crowding the green carpet arrivals area hours before the biggest stars arrived.
"All this love," Oberoi said as onlookers cheered. "This is the most incredible time I'm having. So much energy. So much fun."