Aamir Khan's '3 Idiots' swept the 11th edition of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards that concluded with much fanfare in Colombo early on June 6 but the three-day event will perhaps be remembered more for the absence of Bollywood mega stars led by IIFA brand ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, apparently due to a boycott threatened by southern Indian film distributors of the stars who attended the event.
There was nothing official about the absence of the Bachchans, including Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai, as also Shah Rukh Khan, who had previously announced he would be at Colombo, but it was quite clear that Bollywood was taking the boycott threat seriously.
It's not that the southern Indian distributors are opposed per se to the event going out of India - it has previously been held in cities like Macau, Bangkok and Amsterdam - but they were specifically opposed to Colombo as the venue because of what they perceived to be the excesses by the Sri Lanka armed forces in the final push against the Tamil Tiger rebels last year.
Still, the event weathered the storm, as was evident at the ritzy grand finale, the highpoint of which was Hrithik Roshan's mindblowing livewire performance when he not only danced but wowed the audience by singing as well.
The other highlight was the compering by Lara Dutta along with Boman Irani-Riteish Deshmukh who once again enthralled the audience with their excellent chemistry on an extravagant set.
But then, there were the low points too - for instance, Bipasha Basu's performance on the awards night and the humid weather.
And, the threatened boycott by the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce meant the glamour quotient on the final light was much lower than in the past, with it being left to the likes of Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Anil Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan and Bipasha Basu to fly the Bollywood flag.
Nevertheless, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa was ecstatic about hosting the awards ceremony in his country.
"Thank you IIFA for choosing my country as the venue for this extravagant event. It will help us in bridging the gap between the two nations in a simple manner," Rajapaksa said.
The grand finale apart, there was much more to the three-day event
On the first day, the IIFA Fashion Extravaganza saw the participation of many Bollywood actors and Sri Lankan cricketer Kumar Sangakkara, who walked the ramp for leading Indian and Sri Lankan designers. This was backed by a live musical performance by composers Salim-Suleiman and singers Kailash Kher and Anushka Manchanda.
A charity cricket match was organised the next day between the Sangakkara XI, boasting of some Sri Lankan greats and two teams comprising Bollywood stars and led respectively by Suniel Shetty and Hrithik Roshan. The former but naturally knocked out the Bollywood heroes.
The sixth edition of the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum, also on Friday, focused on various strategies to explore and boost business opportunities between India and Sri Lanka. The theme this year was "India - Sri Lanka Partnership: The Way forward", with some key speakers being President Rajapaksa and former Indian junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor.
The first look of movies like 'Dabaang', 'Lamhaa' and 'Knockout' were also showcased at the event, as was a sneak peek into the multi-million project Kingdom of Dreams - a mega entertainment destination slated to open in Gurgaon ahead of the Commonwealth Games in October.