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No Sharukh makes IIFA a bore

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Monday, June 19, 2006
Dubai (UNI): Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan is just not called 'King Khan' or 'Bollywood Badshah' for nothing as his absence was sorely felt here at the recent 7th International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) weekend. Even though top stars like Salman Khan, Akshay Kumar, Hrithik Roshan, Abhishek Bachchan, Rani Mukherji and Preity Zinta were present for the awards presentation ceremony and performed, they could not match the SRK's histronics of entertaining the audiences and interacting with fans while anchoring the awards presentation show.

The star-studded extravaganza during the awards presentation failed to enthuse the audiences. The stars came, performed and left. There was no variety in the performances except of Preity Zinta who danced to the tunes of superhit numbers which had influence of Arabic music, said Vivek Kotian. Of the few stories carried by the local media about the IIFA weekend, most were critical. Last year, the Dutch press had extensive coverage of the event describing IIFA as 'Bollywood Oscars'. SRK keeps the audiences engaged with his light, humorous talk and even invites his fans to perform with him on stage, remembers Shalini Patel, who attended the 'Temptations' performance of Shah Rukh in Dubai two years ago. Fardeen Khan and Lara Dutta did a decent job as comperes of the show but they could match SRK's star status, she said.

Organisers did not give any reason for Shah Rukh staying away from IIFA except that he was holidaying in London with his family after completing the shooting of Farhan Akhtar's 'Don'. The Superstar's absence from the mega-event was attributed to his alleged differences with Amitabh Bachchan, who is the brand ambassador of IIFA. Filmmaker Karan Johar, a close friend of SRK, rubbished such talks. ''Such gossip does not deserve even an explanation,'' Karan, who directed both SRK and the Big B in his soon to be released film 'Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna' (KANK), said. Abhishek Bachchan, who worked for the first time with SRK in KANK, lamented that he had only three scenes with Shah Rukh in the film. ''He is hard working and lights up the screen with his presence,'' Abhishek said.

Last year in Amsterdam, fans thronged the hotels throughout the day and night where the stars were put up to catch a glimpse of their favourite actors which was not the case here. The frenzy was missing here as star appearances have become a routine. ''There are many shows and events happening here round the year and so the people are used to it'' a local journalist said. Aishwarya Rai, whose performance in Jag Mundhra's ''Provoked'' was appreciated by film critics here, was visiting Dubai after a decade. She flew in and out of the city within a few hours as she was in the midst of the shooting for Mani Ratnam's 'Guru' in Chennai.

Many Indians living here, majority of whom belong to Kerala, were the happiest to see their icons Mamooty and Mohan Lal in flesh and blood. Both the Malyalam superstars were invited on stage to give away some awards The fans were disappointed that Mohan Lal did not acknowledge them but were happy when Mamooty waved at them. What made them even happier was the actor's plaintalk. Mamooty expressed happiness that IIFA had invited actors from other Indian language films for the awards function and refused to be called a south Indian actor.

''Outside India, we are all Indians. When IIFA calls itself International, they should incorporate the best of films from other languages to compete with Hindi films in different award categories. Indian cinema does not constitute Hindi movies alone,'' he said to loud cheers from the audience but it is unlikely that the format of awards would see a change in the immediate future as Hindi films are the most popular.

Despite the high cost of tickets and scorching heat even during evenings, the Airport Expo, venue of the awards function on Friday, was jampacked. The prices were ranged between 1200 dirhams, 800 dirhams and 250 dirhams. Even though majority of Indians working and living here are well-to-do and could afford such tickets, there are many others who live a hand-to-mouth existence in this city of dreams in the gulf, only to save and send few dirhams back home in India.

Sirajuddin, a driver of a ''rent-a-vehicle'' company whose services were hired to ferry IIFA guests to different destinations here, hails from Kerala. He said he has been working here for the last ten years. He works in shifts, driving a luxury bus through Dubai's roads. ''I get one month off every year to go home. Some times, I take two months holiday in two years. Here, it is just work hard to save money and send it to Cochin to enable my four small sons to study'', he said as his eyes turn moist while talking about his family.

Shekhar Kumar, an executive in a seven star hotel, hails from Mangalore. ''I am living here for the last ten years. My wife too works as a consulant in a private firm here. Savings are difficult here. I am atleast better off because I have certain facilities like free food and travel. But, the condition of masons, construction workers who are brought here as cheap labour by agents is pathetic,'' he said. ''They are dumped in single rooms along with 25 others, and are given about 600 dirhams per month and not even paid on time. There is strike and road blockadges every month demanding better wages,'' he said. A law that minimum wages be fixed at 1000 dirhams is being proposed now. All the massive construction works you see all over here is being done by hiring cheap Indian labour as well as those from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, he added.

He revealed that air conditioners are must in homes here, due to the severe heat during February and September. ''Air conditioners bills come to 700 dirhams per month apart from electricity charges. If you are a local, you will have to pay five per cent of the total electricity bill and if you are an outsider, you have to bear the entire bill,'' he said.

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