20th April 2010, www.lankabusinessonline.com
Sri Lanka will host an annual Indian film awards in Colombo in June drawing Bollywood stars to the country and opening opportunities for films to be shot on location in the former war-torn island industry officials said.
The International Indian Film Academy Awards will be held in Sri Lanka from June 03 to 05.
"A size of a country is measured by the size of the heart and Sri Lanka has a big heart," veteran Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan, who is the brand ambassador for the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) awards told reporters.
"I have hosted IIFA for the last 10 years and this by far is the best welcome I had so far."
Sri Lanka's tourism official said Sri Lanka has been chosen amid rival bids from Durban, Seoul, Bangkok and Singapore which had hosted the event earlier.
The first awards were held in London. Other locations included Amsterdam, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai and Johannesburg.
Indian cinema eclipses the more glamorous Hollywood cinema industry in the US by producing the highest number of movies every year, though production budgets of Indian films may be smaller.
"What we are celebrating through IIFA is the world's largest film industry," Sabash Joseph, director IIFA said.
"We film the highest number of movies and sell the highest number of tickets (in the world)."
A business forum, fashion show, celebrity cricket match, world premiers of upcoming Indian films and a film workshop would be part of the show.
The event will be broadcast to a 600 million global audience across 110 countries.
Organizers say the event brings a publicity to valued at over 50 million US dollars to an economy.
"Already the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and CNN (Cable News Network) have booked hotel rooms to use as studios," Joseph said.
Bachchan said he would ask Indian cinema to consider Sri Lanka as a location to shoot movies with Indian films increasingly going abroad in search of new locations.
Hollywood blockbuster movies, Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), and Indiana Jones 'Temple of Doom' (1984) were shot in Sri Lankan central hills, but separatist war waged by Tamil Tiger separatists which intensified in 1983 turned Sri Lanka into a war zone. The war ended last May.
Bachchan said closer links could be built between Indiana and Sri Lankan cinema.
Sri Lanka's domestic industry has been heavily influenced by Indian cinema, featuring singing stars dancing around trees and with the first films being edited in South India.
A former Miss Sri Lanka, Jackie Fernandez has broken into Hollywood is making wavers there now, but Sri Lanka's government fines producers who use Indian talent through penal levies.
Hindi films broadcast on Sri Lankan television are also taxed at the highest rate, though Tamil films have been spared.
"We were delighted when we hear that IIFA had selected Sri Lanka to host its award ceremony," Achala Jagoda, former tourism minister said.
"This is a clear sign that Sri Lankan is heading towards a bright direction after years of trauma."