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Dancers perform at the Vancouver announcement of The Times of India Film Awards. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Dancers perform at the Vancouver announcement of The Times of India Film Awards. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

B.C. enters the battle for Bollywood North Add to ...

“We were categorical about that. So possibly that didn’t work in the interests of whoever was investing in the project,” said Joseph, referencing “the political situation in British Columbia.”

There is a provincial election May 14; the campaign begins mid-April, shortly after the TOIFAs.

In response to a question about this, the Premier’s press secretary sent the rejection letter and the bid with the June dates, saying they speak for themselves.

Ironically, Joseph said another factor in rejecting the bid was the level of support, such as tax cuts, for Bollywood filmmakers looking to make movies in B.C. The B.C. film industry has been up in arms about the province spending millions to bring TOIFA to Vancouver; they say the money would be better spent improving tax incentives to bolster local production.

 

TOIFA vs IIFA

The growing importance of expat eyeballs for evolving Bollywood has created a marketplace for its awards shows outside of India, where popular films such as the romantic comedies Barfi! and Vicky Donor can be celebrated – and promoted. The IIFAs launched in 2000, and have become a big event for the industry.

In 2011, for example, Ontario spent $12-million to bring the IIFAs to Toronto, and in return gained more than 40,000 visitors and a worldwide broadcast audience of over 700 million viewers in 110 countries, according to the Ontario government. The Ontario Media Development Corporation says the province’s continued relationship-building with India – including a trade mission that November – has resulted in multiple deals for co-ventures between Ontario and Indian companies.

Now the Times of India, which organizes the Filmfare Awards, wants a piece of that lucrative non-resident Indian action.

Before the TOIFA launch in Vancouver, IIFA issued a news release, calling the new awards a “copycat” event. But the Times Group’s Filmfare Awards, dubbed the Bollywood Oscars by some, have actually been around far longer than the IIFAs.

“We have a legacy of 58 years of Filmfare awards, so any other award is actually an emulation of [our] awards,” Sameer Soni with the Times of India Group told The Globe and Mail. “So if someone is saying that we are the copycats, the proof of the pudding is in eating it.”

Soni approached that 2011 B.C. trade delegation not with a film-awards proposal at first, but with the objective of promoting travel to B.C. for India’s fast-growing middle class. Out of that came the idea to use the film awards as a marketing platform.

 

The TOIFAs

Unlike the Filmfare Awards, which have categories for both juried and fan voting, TOIFA will rely exclusively on the popular vote, open to a global audience beginning in February.

It will be interesting to see how the so-called new Bollywood films will fare in the voting – thrillers and art-house films, often Western-influenced, where prancing young lovers don’t pop up behind tree trunks, and the endings aren’t necessarily happy.

The big winner at last weekend’s Filmfare event was a commercially successful yet offbeat film called Barfi!, about a deaf and mute boy who falls for a woman who rejects him because of parental pressure. The film, directed by Anurag Basu, picked up six awards, most in the popular-vote categories, including best film, best actor and trendsetter of the year. While some have criticized the decision to make Barfi! India’s official entry for best foreign-language film in this year’s Oscars (it was not nominated), Surrey-based Indian film expert Kamal Sharma is a fan, and predicts it will be a big winner in Vancouver.

It’s illuminating to view the divide between critical and popular winners at the Filmfare event. The critical and technical awards were dominated by films that may better exemplify the new Bollywood, such as the critically acclaimed thriller Kahaani, about a pregnant woman searching for her husband, and Gangs of Wasseypur, which premiered at Cannes and also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“The cinema in India has changed quite significantly. ... The emphasis is more on the substance,” says Sharma, who owns Kamal’s Video Palace in Surrey, and writes a newspaper column and hosts two TV shows about Bollywood. “Some new visionaries have come in this field.”

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