KARL QUINN June 15, 2012
Bollywood actress Bipasha Basu performs on stage during the Indian International Academy Awards (IIFA) in Sheffield, northern England in 2007. Photo: Reuters
THE Victorian government is in the hunt to bring an event dubbed ‘‘the Oscars of Bollywood’’ to Melbourne, but success could come at a huge cost with organisers suggesting the bill to taxpayers could be as high as $18 million.
The campaign to bring the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards to Melbourne is part of a six-point policy announced by Premier Ted Baillieu prior to the election in November 2010.
Top of the list of policies designed to ‘‘build better links with Bollywood’’ was a commitment to ‘‘initiating a bid by the Victorian Major Events Corporation’’ for the awards to be held in Melbourne.
Also on the list was a promise to fund a Bollywood film festival. The Indian Film Festival Melbourne, which will receive $450,000 in government funding over three years, began on Monday.
A spokesman for the government confirmed this week that the pursuit was ongoing. ‘‘The International Indian Film Academy awards are still under active consideration and the minister will make an announcement in due course,’’ the spokesman said.
But The Age understands the Victorian Major Events Company is hesitant to back the awards because of the event’s hefty price tag. The VMEC did not respond to requests for comment.
The awards are the property of Indian events company Wizcraft, which staged the most recent event last weekend in Singapore.
The 2011 event was held in Toronto, at a cost of approximately $36 million.
According to Ashish Chawla, co-director (with Ash Mehta) of KlubSutra, the Brisbane-based company acting as the Australian agent for Wizcraft, the Victorian government would be expected to contribute a little less than half the cost of staging the event.
‘‘We are only asking $15-$18 million, depending on what the Victorian Major Events Company wants to get delivered,’’ Mr Chawla said.
The IIFA, which has been held since 2000, is a travelling event designed to promote the Indian film industry to the world and in turn to promote the host cities — which have included London, Johannesburg and Dubai — to an Indian television audience that the organisers claim exceeds 600 million viewers. The ultimate pay-off for Victoria would be in terms of increased tourism and business opportunities, as well as closer ties between the local film sector and Bollywood.
The Indian film industry has many film awards nights, and even other international awards nights, but IIFA claims to be the largest. It is, at any rate, quite possibly the broadest, a three-day event with a focus well beyond film.
‘‘IIFA travels with a delegation of about 150 top Indian business tycoons and politicians,’’ Mr Chawla said. The second day of the three-day event is explicitly designed as an opportunity for business networking.
When Toronto hosted the event in 2011, the Canadian city contributed $12 million towards its cost. IIFA analysis of the event’s economic benefits claimed the city derived $20 million in direct revenue through accommodation, event expenditure and taxes, and $125 in total economic activity.
The 2007 event in Yorkshire, England, was deemed to have produced a 40 per cent boost in tourism and to have generated £50million ($78 million) in PR value.
But while those figures might suggest selling Victoria to India through IIFA makes some sense, convincing Victorians facing an uncertain economic future that it’s money well spent could be a much tougher sell.