IIFA lands in Macau on Thursday

Awards may help heal wounds from just-ended strike

MACAU -- The Indian film industry is getting ready to get put the troubles of the recent strike behind it and party like Bollywood does best.

Many of the top names from the Mumbai-based, Hindi-language industry are this weekend making the trip to Macau, a Chinese "Special Administrative Region," for the Indian International Film Academy weekend. Already the immense Venetian Macau hotel is crawling with journalists and TV crews.

Such is the growing thrall of Bollywood -- superstar Amitabh Bachchan Thursday described it as a "parallel culture" -- that organizer Wizcraft can field bids from potential host cities and make claims for tens of millions of dollars of economic benefit.

The three-day event ranges from the deadly serious, such as a high-powered economic seminar organized Friday with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, through to the faintly ridiculous.

In previous editions, the weekend has been an opportunity for the film industry to showcase a handful of its upcoming movies in front of audiences made up of specialist press from around the world. But with the standoff between movie producers and India's multiplex owners only coming to an end six days ago (see related story), film releases have been held back. That leaves only a handful of upcoming films including Reliance Big Cinemas' "Do Knot Disturb" and Indian Film Company's "Shortkut" to present footage and stars at special briefings.

However, as the list of related events grows, that scarcely seems to matter. Wizcraft boss Sabbas Joseph now talks of "the IIFA movement" and can point to a cluster of allied awards and initiatives, most notably in the field of ecology and global warming, to which sponsors like Panasonic are keen to hitch their brands.

Of course, references to "Slumdog Millionaire" abound, and Oscar-winning sound mixer Resul Pookutty was on hand Thursday to initiate a new technical industries scholarship with Pune University. Oscar-laden composer A.R. Rahman will host a music workshop Friday.

Saturday night promises an evening-long parade of celebrities, silly sketches and full on song-and-dance routines.