Sri Lanka is all set for the 11th International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards festival, scheduled from June 3 to 5, despite calls for boycott by a section of the South Indian film industry.
Being held for the first time in the island nation, it is seen as a grand opportunity by the government to showcase the post-conflict Sri Lanka as an ideal tourist and investment destination.
The government is going out of its way to make the event a big success, though it remains to be seen whether some of the big names expected to participate in the extravaganza would actually make it.
On Tuesday, Hindi film actors Vivek Oberoi, Boman Irani, Lara Dutta and Ritesh Deshmukh arrived here to participate in the IIFA events. According to the Tourism Board officials, some more leading Hindi film actors and music artistes are to arrive on Wednesday and Thursday, along with hundreds of Indian tourists.
The stated objective of IIFA is to help “bridge boundaries” between the neighbouring countries and promote discussions on economic and political issues in the wake of Sri Lanka's civil war last May.
IIFA brand ambassador and veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan was here in April to mark the official launch. The actor had called on President Mahinda Rajapaksa. On his return to India, Mr. Bachchan faced criticism from a section of the Tamil diaspora for his decision to participate in the IIFA.
For several weeks now, there have been demands by activists to boycott the Colombo event. However, last week the event's organisers put an end to all speculation by categorically asserting that there was no change in the decision to host the event in Sri Lanka.
A senior government official said the protests by a small minority were politically motivated and intended to undermine the victory of the security forces against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and efforts of the government to market Sri Lanka as a safe and ideal destination for tourism and investment.
“There is a lot of protest from the [Tamil] Tiger lobby in Tamil Nadu to the Bollywood [Hindi film] fraternity to boycott the IIFA Colombo awards. But we will go ahead with the event as planned,” Deputy Economic Development Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene told a news conference here.
The awards ceremony will have several sideline forums to strengthen business and investment links between the two countries.
The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) will hold the FICCI-IIFA Global Business Forum 2010, here on Friday.
According to the organisers, the Business Forum is the highlight of the IIFA weekend, as it provides Indian and Sri Lankan business leaders with a mutually beneficial networking opportunity. The objective is to promote bilateral trade between India and the host country, said Convention Bureau Consultant Nimalka Morahela.
Speakers at the forum will include Indians like Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and Tourism Union Minister Kumari Selja, Hospitality Group Chairperson Lalit Suri and Managing Director Jyotsna Suri, Western Union Services India Director Marketing Rajesh Mehta and FICCI Co-Chairman Tourism Himmat Anand.