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Bollywood Oscars come to Florida

2014-04-23 18:30

Tampa — The International Indian Film Academy is holding its annual awards ceremony in Tampa starting Wednesday.

The city is an unusual choice for the awards because it's not known for having one of the largest Indian-American populations in the US, but tourism officials hope it will be an economic boon. Some 30 000 performers, industry executives and fans are expected to visit.

It's the first time in the event's 15-year history that the Indian film academy has gathered in the United States.

Here's a look at what Tampa has done to get ready for the extravaganza:

Who’s that?

Tourism officials produced a series of cultural sensitivity webinars for airport, hotel and restaurant workers. Among the tips: Don't be shocked that some Indians have different accents, some might not "look Indian," and, "just because you don't recognize them, doesn't mean they aren't famous."

Excited fans

Security and service workers were told Bollywood fans can be intense. Niti Shah, who runs a Bollywood dance academy in Tampa, said in a training video that "the crowds will be that of a pop concert." Security should "expect that most of the fans will be avid friendly fans. The perceived aggressive behavior by U.S. standards is not them being out of control. In fact these fans are intent on their purpose and will not take no for an answer."

Open late

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is hosting a VIP party for 1,000 people at the casino's Council Oak Steaks & Seafood restaurant and added vegetarian dishes because some Indians are vegetarian or don't eat beef. Tourism officials also suggested that restaurants stay open later to accommodate Indian guests, who like to eat later (most Tampa restaurants close before 10 p.m. on weekends).

A star-studded arrival

The Tampa International Airport is ground zero for celebrities and their fans. Airport officials — some of whom have gotten business cards made in Hindi — have closed the top floor of the parking garage so incoming Indian celebrities and their entourages can meet in an orderly fashion with fans. Wearing sunglasses, Shahid Kapoor, an actor with 4 million followers on Twitter, arrived to a small crowd at the VIP area Monday. He is scheduled to co-host Saturday's awards ceremony.

Hollywood in Tampa, too

(John Travolta arriving for the screening of Killing Season. AP)

Hollywood celebrities are in town, as well. Oscar-winning actor and House of Cards star Kevin Spacey will give a master acting class alongside Vidya Balan, a wildly popular Indian actress. John Travolta, also an Oscar winner, will appear at the awards ceremony. Academy officials will honour Travolta with the "Most Popular All Time International Star In India" award. Past Hollywood stars at the ceremonies include Angelina Jolie, Hilary Swank and Cuba Gooding, Jr.

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