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Bollywood in Toronto: Fave moment #2 – the fans

Bollywood actor Sonu Sood and fans in the lobby of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel during the IIFA Awards. Photo courtesy Andrew Adams of Katha Images.

Bollywood actor Sonu Sood and fans in the lobby of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel during the IIFA Awards. Photo courtesy Andrew Adams of Katha Images.

Bollywood in Toronto

My top five favourite moments

This is the second in a series of blog posts about my favourite moments of the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards weekend in Toronto, June 2011. I had the good fortune to be the “embedded” blogger at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, the IIFA’s host hotel, during the Bollywood invasion, so I was right at the centre of the action. Number 1 moment: Meeting Shahrukh Khan. Number 3 moment: The stars.

Fave moment #2: Fan frenzy

Staying at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, the host hotel for the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards in Toronto, gave me a unique and close-up look at both the behind-the-scenes action and the fans. I have lived in India, so I was not at all surprised by the fan frenzy: Indian movie stars have the biggest and most loyal fan followings in the world. Hands down. No comparison.

Fans waiting outside the Fairmont Royal York Hotel during the IIFA Awards. Photo courtesy Andrew Adams of Katha Images.

Fans waiting outside the Fairmont Royal York Hotel during the IIFA Awards. Photo courtesy Andrew Adams of Katha Images.

It became routine for me, over the five days I stayed at the hotel, to see fans milling about the lobby, assembling behind roped barricades at the carport entrance and sending up frenzied and excitement-filled screams every time a star entered or exited the hotel. At first, I would run down the hall to see who it was, and I was lucky to interview Arshad Warsi, to photograph Sonu Sood and Zayed Khan, and others, but after awhile I grew tired. But the fans never did. They were always there.

On the night of the IIFA Awards show, as the stars were leaving the hotel, hundreds of hard-core fans lined up behind metal barricades that spilled onto Front St. Police and security patrolled the area and the fans  screamed at the top of their lungs every time a star emerged, which was very often. It was almost unnerving! But I admire their dedication, and I appreciate that they were excited to see icons of India, their country of birth, here in Canada, their new country of residence. They are very lucky that Indian culture does seem to be spreading around the globe, along with the Indian diaspora — and it is even being embraced by non-Indians, like myself.

The angels who follow Shahrukh

Photograph of fans of Shahrukh Khan at the IIFA Awards

Shahrukh Khan’s fans waiting in the hotel lobby to get a t-shirt autographed by their favourite star.

I talked to lots of the fans over the five days I was at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel – young girls, older couples, mothers with their teenage children. They came from the suburbs of Toronto, from Vancouver, from the USA. But perhaps the most dedicated, most fervent and also some of the sweetest fans I met were the Mission SRK / Shahrukh Khan Angels. They are part of a worldwide organization of people who live for sightings of the world’s number 1 movie star.

The morning that SRK was scheduled to arrive in Toronto, they were at the hotel before dawn, staking out their position at the front of the barricades, where I interviewed three of them (see video below). As I also wanted to be in position when he arrived, I became part of their phone-based alert system. Members of the organization were staked out at the airport, and messaging the hotel contingent about the star’s every move. I knew when Shahrukh’s plane landed because they sent me a text message; and I texted them when I found out the location of his entrance to the hotel was moved to the main lobby.

I don’t have the same feeling of fan dedication they do (I’m a LOT older!), but I admire their passion. And it was fun to get to know them and wait with them as the tension mounted — and then erupted into complete pandemonium when he arrived.

Lead photo of Sonu Sood and fans courtesy photographer Andrew Adams of Katha Images.

[DISCLOSURE NOTE:  As embedded blogger during the IIFA Awards, I was a guest of the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. But as always, views expressed are my own and are in no way influenced by accepting accommodation. I will not compromise the editorial integrity of Breathedreamgo.]

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