May 7, 2005. It’s 11 a.m. The already busy lobby of the Jumeira Beach Hotel is buzzing with media teams. TV, radio and press crews are waiting for the big moment. Amitabh Bachchan is in Dubai to promote the forthcoming IIFA (International Indian Film Academy) awards and every media person is eagerly looking forward to interviewing the Big B.
Every media has been promised an ‘exclusive’ by the local PR team. As far as my E-Plus assignment is concerned, the interview arrangement is strange to say the least. I have been paired with a local TV channel and have been asked to hand over my questions to the TV interviewer, who is supposed to do the ‘real’ interview and I am supposed to be the cute, mute spectator jotting down the details! Yet, I have resigned to my fate-knowing fully well that press ranks a distinct second to TV in terms of hierarchy!
Thankfully this brilliant brain-wave of media-pairing designed to save time is squashed by Amitabh’s secretary, whose intervention then throws the whole time-table of media-slotting into disarray. The new instructions are unexpected- Amitabh is going to meet the press contingent first and later he would do the TV interviews. The ‘exclusive’ piece is no more possible- now it’s free for all!
Suddenly the press reporters- a grand total of four people- are taken to a corner room on twenty-third floor. I am the first one to enter the room. The Big B clad in full white attire is sitting on a sofa. "Hi, I am Amitabh." His greeting in that famous baritone almost makes me giggle. Despite having interviewed scores of celebrities, meeting this man- the undisputed superstar of our era invokes a unique feeling of joy and euphoria.
At close quarters, the man looks old but still handsome. His charisma is felt immediately. His penetrating gaze, booming voice, intelligent analytical mind and command over language make him a complete PR package. Plus we are lucky- for he seems to be in mood for quips, unlike some other times when he is the interviewer’s nightmare with sullen monosyllabic answers!
Amitabh On IIFA awards
The interview-cum-press conference goes on for almost half an hour. The first few questions naturally centre round forthcoming IIFA awards in June. With well- rehearsed efficiency Bachchan- the brand ambassador speaks about the event- "This year, the award ceremony is taking place in Amsterdam, Holland. The main vision of IIFA is to celebrate and globalize Indian cinema and that’s why the event is being taken beyond Indian shores to different parts of the world, particularly where there is a large percentage of Indian expatriate population. In such countries, in Europe, America or Middle East, the local people by way of their association with Indian expats, have slowly started getting interested in Indian movies and this kind of major exposure is needed to make Indian cinema truly universal."
So what does he think about the relevance and credibility of these awards amidst the ever-proliferating award shows? Like a seasoned campaigner, he says, "Amongst the film awards outside India, this is the most prestigious award ceremony. The awards are based on voting by the film-industry people themselves and the TV- viewership for the program is huge. It is also a great opportunity for industry people to mingle with each other and also meet people from different countries."
Explaining the changed extended 4 day-format of this year’s IIFA event, he says, "This year IIFA has joined hands with FICCI (Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry) to provide a common platform where film- industry people could meet up with industrialists and government officials to further their business contacts. Apart from the award ceremony, there are many planned events like a charity cricket match, cinema sem