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Indian 'Oscars' to bring glitz to area

TAMPA — The "Bollywood Oscars" are coming to the Tampa Bay area the last weekend in April, with the awards ceremony being televised worldwide from Raymond James Stadium on April 26.

But with a rock concert scheduled at the University of South Florida Sun Dome and a big film industry show at the Florida State Fairgrounds, the 2014 International Indian Film Academy's Weekend & Awards is shaping up to be three days of glamor spread across a wide region.

Even the news conferences about ticket sales, expected the second week of January in New York, Los Angeles and Tampa, promise a dash of glitz.

"The press conference will most likely have some celebrities," said Santiago Corrada, president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, the nonprofit visitors and tourism bureau working with the IIFA.

Here is the schedule for the weekend posted at IIFA.com:

• Thursday, April 24 includes welcome events at Tampa International Airport, two media events at the official, but as-yet-unidentified IIFA host hotel, the first day of a global business forum at the Tampa Convention Center and an "IIFA Rocks" concert and post-party at USF's Sun Dome.

• Friday, April 25 includes more arrivals at the airport, another media briefing at the hotel, the second day of the global business forum at the convention center and a "Magic of the Movies & Technical Awards" show at the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre at the fairgrounds, plus an IIFA post-party.

• Saturday, April 26, has a film workshop at the IIFA host hotel, a media briefing and the IIFA awards show at Raymond James Stadium, plus a post-event party.

Tampa will be the first city in the United States to host the gala. In Monday's announcement from the IIFA, Tampa cardiologist, philanthropist and local organizer Dr. Kiran Patel said he expected the awards weekend to be the "grandest Indian cinema spectacle that the U.S. has ever seen."

Over the past 14 years, the awards weekend has taken place in such cities as London, Johannesburg, Toronto, Amsterdam and Bangkok. The awards ceremony itself is known for the green carpet that Bollywood's movie stars walk and has a global television audience estimated at nearly 600 million in 108 countries. Wizcraft International Entertainment, a company based in Mumbai, puts on the multiday extravaganza.

When the decision to come to Tampa was announced in July, organizers first planned to hold the awards weekend in mid-June.

But they have since decided to move it earlier in the spring because of a big demand for tickets and more favorable weather.

At least 35,000 people have been anticipated for the awards show — more than attended 2011's main event in Toronto — with up to 60,000 visitors coming for other events. Wizcraft director Andre Timmins describes the demand as "unprecedented," which means organizers need Tampa's "largest possible venue."

The IIFA originally looked at the Tampa Bay Times Forum for the awards ceremony, but the event's large stage — as big or bigger than the one built for the Republican National Convention — wouldn't leave enough room for the expected audience.

That left Raymond James Stadium as the only Tampa venue with room for the crowd.

"They're looking to top their biggest, which was Toronto," Corrada said Monday. "Toronto was about 30,000 people."

To avoid rain, organizers decided to move the weekend from June to April.

Organizers also have talked about hosting events before the awards weekend to engage the community and build buzz about the IIFA awards.

In September, Timmins told the Tampa Bay Times that organizers were looking at the possibility of holding an exhibition cricket match and could do fashion events, dancing or cooking competitions featuring Bollywood stars. And because this will be IIFA's first awards weekend in the United States, Timmins said he wouldn't be surprised by some participation by the American film industry in Hollywood.

Despite the change in schedule, Corrada said local organizers do not expect a problem putting plans in place for the gala.

"There's going to be a lot of hard work," he said. "Obviously, we're planning with two months less. . . . We're going to have to move very, very quickly on some things."

Times staff writer Caitlin E. O'Conner and researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Richard Danielson can be reached at (813) 226-3403, Danielson@tampabay.com or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.

Indian 'Oscars' to bring glitz to area 12/23/13 [Last modified: Monday, December 23, 2013 11:31pm]
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