By Asif Somroo:
The biggest international event celebrating the finest from India’s film industry is coming back to the United States of America for the second time.
Conceptualized by Wizcraft International, the event debuted 17 years ago as The International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards at the Millennium Dome in London, UK. Since then, the event has been held all around the world with Spain being the latest host country.
We talked to Andre Timmins, Director and one of the founders of Wizcraft International, known for creating and managing IIFA and other mega events both in India and around the world.
CP: When did you join Wizcraft and how has your journey been so far?
AT: Well, you know I am a founder director of Wizcraft. I established Wizcraft with two other colleagues Viraf and Sabbas. So, we have been in the business for 29 years and we love what we do. Initially I was a disc jockey playing music and opened this company called Wizcraft in 1988. And we started doing events from parties to corporate big events, you know right from Michael Jackson to Common Wealth games, 50 years of Independence to the Global Citizen festival. So, we have done over 13500 events already. Each year Wizcraft produces and does about over 500 events across the country.
When you start a business and you grow it to a stage that gives people an opportunity today, that is a big achievement. Today event management is a career. We feel Wizcraft in India has improved the event managment and communication industry and given all the youngsters a chance to open their own companies or join and make event management a career.
CP: What’s the philosophy behind Wizcraft’s success?
AT: God’s kind you know! In Wizcraft, we believe in people and our people who work in Wizcraft, we call them Wiz. We coined this in 1992, in our conference and we said we need to do something different. Everybody in Wizcraft is called Wiz. So, Wiz Andre, Wiz Viraf, Wiz Sabbas…… all our people are basically Wiz’s from that aspect. We developed the Wiz culture for ourselves and we believe in doing quality events.
CP: Why did you choose New York as your next destination for the 18th edition of IIFA awards?
AT: Well, we’ve wanted to come back to America and we thought that Mumbai and New York….. there is a lot of resemblance. I guess that New York is a no brainer because our film industry loves New York. We wanted to go to a destination which is one stop from India. And the fact that New York kind of mimics things that happen in Mumbai. The industry is looking forward to it. We believe it’s going to enhance the brand. We want to induct some Hollywood element in, because Hollywood movies are doing very well in India as you can see. You know New York – Mumbai – New York, together. So you get the best of both worlds.
CP: You have selected Metlife stadium as the venue. It’s a huge stadium with a capacity of over eighty thousand. Do you think it will be a full house,?
AT: Well, as we speak we are looking at forty thousand people, we are not using the whole venue. We televise the event globally to eight hundred million viewers. So, we have over one to two thousand people backstage. Right now we have already sold more than about ten to twelve thousand tickets plus without too much of advertising. I think we are definitely looking at a full house of forty thousand people and we presume that we will have about twenty thousand people on our green carpet, like we had in Tampa and in Toronto. When IIFA comes to any place, especially America, people look forward to it. They treat IIFA as their own, you know. All the Indians, all the Asians, all the people who understand bollywood movies, they come out and support us. At Tampa we had close to twenty five thousand people on the green carpet so this will probably be bigger than that.
CP: What is new at this 18th edition of the awards? What’s different this time?
AT: First of all, this is the first Indian event to be held at Metlife. The Metlife team are extremely excited. I have seen lot of venues around the world, but I can tell you Metlife is far superior in terms of its operations in terms of people coming in, parking, the lounges, you know…. the parks, the food. You actually don’t feel you are watching an event.
Secondly, we are celebrating A.R. Rahmans’s 25 years and we have got a lot of singers, thirteen to fourteen singers with him. We have also confirmed Daljit Dosanjh who is going to open the evening. We will be announcing more names along with A.R.Rahman, who will be singing with him; a lot of people who have been part of his 25 years in this career. And for the first time he is going to do something different like sufi, you know pop , rock, etc. So you are going to see a different side of A R Rahman. And the fact that we are celebrating his 25 years, it’s a very very big thing for us.
On the main awards night, you are going to see performances from Salman, Katrina, Alia. We are going to make it different or interactive with the audiences. Also, we are bringing in Hollywood. We are in discussion with lot of people who are local American big acts, who want to look at Bollywood. So, as we go forward we will keep announcing new names. We are doing a full mix of various talents who would never come together as one piece otherwise.
CP: What would you say to your American audience?
AT: Our aim as IIFA is to celebrate. What we want to bring to the audience is celebration, happiness. You know movies are all about happiness and feeling good. So please come out and support this event. Yes, we are nervous because we have never attempted to have an audience as big as this. In Tampa, we were close to twenty six, twenty seven thousand people. And also in Toronto we were about twenty nine thousand. We are flying in with about four hundred people from the industry, besides our crew. The total number of people coming in will be about twenty-five hundred people from India. So, it’s going to be interesting. We just want everyone to come and enjoy themselves. That’s the most important thing.