The green carpet was rolled out, and Bollywood fever was raging as the three-day International Indian Film Academy celebrations kicked off Thursday night.
Thousands of patient fans were rewarded when Bollywood idols Ritesh Deshmukh, Boman Irani and Mallika Sherawat arrived for the world premiere of the slapstick comedy Double Dhamaal at SilverCity Brampton.
"We're really excited to have the premiere here," Mr. Deshmukh, one of the film's stars, said as he walked the green carpet. "We're looking forward to showing Canadians what Indian cinema is all about."
Duncan Ross, a former tourism official for the city of Toronto and now ambassador for IIFA, said he was just overwhelmed by the already apparent success of the event in Toronto. Thousands of exuberant fans came to the theatre to catch a glimpse of the stars.
"This has exceeded my wildest expectations," he said. "This theatre [SilverCity Brampton]has the distinction of showing the most Indian films in North America ... and we have delivered a once-in-a-lifetime event to the South Asian community."
Several films will be making their international premieres over the weekend, and Indian cinema A-listers will walk the green carpet for events across the GTA.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, flanked by Bollywood stars, inaugurated the glitzy three-day celebrations Thursday morning at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in downtown Toronto. He was credited by IIFA producer and Wizcraft director Sabbas Joseph for bringing the Bollywood awards to Toronto. Wizcraft International is the company that produces the IIFA awards each year.
Mr. McGuinty reminisced about his trip to Mumbai to announce the Toronto awards.
"I found myself surrounded by dozens of media ... The camera flashes in my face were mesmerizing. And then I distinctly remember a photographer saying to me, 'Sir, you are ruining my shot of [Bollywood actress]Celina Jaitley,'" he said, getting a laugh from the attendees.
Toronto has been gearing up for the IIFA awards, with Bollywood stars flying into the city since last week.
Singer Sonu Nigam, also present at the morning launch with Grammy-nominated singer Jermaine Jackson, will pay a tribute to Mr. Jackson's brother and the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, who had a huge fan following in India.
But of course, all eyes will be on Saturday night's awards ceremony, which will have 22,000 fans in attendance and an estimated 700 million viewership worldwide.
"I am thrilled to be a part of yet another IIFA," said Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor, who is nominated for best actor in a comedic role for his work in the film No Problem. "It is an event that I look forward to every single year, and I could not be happier that they have chosen Toronto as the host city for this year's celebrations."
Numerous other stars also attended the IIFA launch, including veteran actor Anupam Kher of Bend It Like Beckham fame, IIFA awards emcee Boman Irani, actress Dia Mirza and director Subhash Ghai. One Toronto cab driver even decked out his cab with images of Bollywood stars - as is done in India - saying he hopes some of the celebs might pop in for a ride.
This will be the first time that the IIFA awards will be held in North America, and following in the tradition of the last four years, this year's ceremony will also focus on climate change. So while Hollywood rolls out the red carpet, these events have green carpets.
Aside from the razzle-dazzle of the Bollywood Oscars, IIFA is also an opportunity for government and business leaders from India and Canada to discuss bilateral trade opportunities between the two countries.
Speaking on the North American debut and the reinforcement of Indo-Canadian relationships, Mr. Joseph said the IIFA awards will lead to "great benefits" to both countries in entertainment, trade and tourism.
"Toronto is definitely the gateway to North America, and we hope to maintain a great relationship with this amazing country for many years to come," Mr. Joseph said.
A who's who of Bollywood
He is probably the most well-known actor to North Americans after his role as the game show host in the Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire. (He has also recently acted in the TV action show 24.) He was last in town when he came to announce the IIFA awards in Toronto in January. Mr. Kapoor is also up for best actor in a comedic role for the film No Problem. He also hails from a Bollywood acting family, including producer and brother Boney Kapoor, sister-in-law Sridevi - with whom he has co-starred in many blockbusters, such as Mr. India - and his daughter, Sonam Kapoor, who is a rising starlet.
Bollywood's favourite funny man. He is the awards' co-host, along with Ritesh Deshmukh. Mr. Irani has starred in many Bollywood films, such as 3 Idiots where he played a grumpy engineering professor and Khosla's Nest as a goon.
Known for her bold roles and dance numbers, Ms. Sherawat often sets tongues wagging in relatively conservative Indian circles. She was among the first Bollywood stars to capitalize on Twitter. She has also worked on crossover films such as Hisss and Politics of Love.
She carries the bombshell status for Bollywood fans, and was honoured with a plaque commemorating the IIFA awards last week in Brampton. The model-turned-actress has, until recently, been dating fellow actor John Abraham. Ms. Basu is not up for any awards, but she has previously won accolades for her roles in flicks such as Race, Jism and Corporate.
Torontonians will remember Mr. Deshmukh from the dance show, The Unforgettable Tour, that came to the city in 2008. Mr. Deshmukh has previously hosted the IIFA awards, and is admired by fans for his comedic timing. No surprise then that he is nominated for best comedic actor in Housefull.
He is Bollywood's loveable sidekick - often paired with Bollywood's original bad boy, Sanjay Dutt - in films such as Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. and Lage Raho Munna Bhai. He is up for best supporting actor for his role in the thriller Ishqiya. His slapstick comedy Double Dhamaal made its international premiere at SilverCity Brampton Thursday night.
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