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What was Worth, What was Not: 2014 IIFA Celebrations, Tampa, Fla.

The recent flurry of Bollywood stars in Tampa, Fla., for the 2014 IIFA celebrations was nothing short of a mammoth logistical feat for the team of organizers from India and the locals in Tampa, who worked hard to make it all happen in a rhythmic fashion, but there is always room for more. Siliconeer talked to a local dance troupe recruit, Nehal Tenany, and a spectator, Vaidehi Bhandari, both from San Francisco Bay Area, about their IIFA experience and expectations from events like this.

(Above): Madhuri Dixit (l) performing at 2014 IIFA Awards. [IIFA | Wizcraft International]

Co-founder of San Francisco Bay Area-based Starlight Dance Company, Nehal Tenany, was one of the locally chosen dancers in Shaimak Davar’s troupe that performed at the 2014 IIFA in Tampa. Juggling between college and her dream, she grabbed the opportunity and took a shot at the competition that would decide whether she could perform next to the Bollywood heartthrobs at IIFA. It was grueling but the rewards were far more sweet. Nehal talks about her experience to Siliconeer. Here’s what she has to say:

While surfing Facebook on the night of April 10, I saw a post titled “Shaimak IIFA Bollywood Dance Competition.” Curious, I clicked on the link to read more about it and discovered that it was a USA online dance competition that Shiamak Davar was hosting to give dancers an opportunity to perform at Bollywood’s biggest award ceremony, the International Indian Film Awards.

(Above): Deepika Padukone performing at 2014 IIFA Awards. [IIFA | Wizcraft International]

I read the rules on the website of how to audition for it and realized that the deadline was in the next three hours. I rushed to the dance rooms at the University of Arizona and quickly recorded a 90 second routine and uploaded it onto YouTube.

At around 11:30 p.m., I submitted my application thinking how awesome it would be if I won but how I wouldn’t be disheartened because the competition was only picking 12 winners from all over U.S.

On April 14, I woke up to a call from my mom. She was screaming “You won! You won!” I remember feeling like I was in a dream; did I really just win an opportunity to perform at IIFA 2014 alongside so many popular celebrities?

(Above): Parineeti Chopra (l) and Siddharth Malhotra (c) performing at 2014 IIFA Awards. [IIFA | Wizcraft International]

After the excitement slowly died out, I began thinking logistics. My mom spent hours researching ticket prices, hotel prices and basically everything logistical. She wasn’t sure if she was comfortable sending her 19-year-old, alone, halfway across the United States. My mom was very double-minded about the situation as her biggest concern was my safety but after days of talking, she bought my ticket and told me it was refundable and it was up to me to decide. So naturally, I called my dad. He told me, “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, you earned this, you deserve it, Go!” Still not completely convinced, I gave my sister, Richa, one last phone call and her response was merely, “Are you crazy? Why are you double thinking this … you’re going to be on stage with Deepika Padukone!”

And my decision was made. I was going to IIFA 2014 in Tampa Bay, Florida.

I left for Tampa on April 22. When I reached there I was introduced to the 11 other talented winners. They are the most down-to-earth, sweet group of people I have ever met. We clicked instantly. That night, Shiamak Davar called in a meeting for all the dancers at around midnight and he gave us the overview of the next couple days. Everything was finally starting to feel real. My life long dream of dancing with my idols and learning from my dance Guru was coming true.

Shiamak’s intention was to make us feel like celebrities, and he achieved that. Rehearsals started April 23. We were fed breakfast at 8:00 a.m. and then we were seated in limos to head to the venue, Raymond James Stadium.

(Above): Priyanka Chopra performing at 2014 IIFA Awards. [IIFA | Wizcraft International]

The stadium was huge and all I could think was, in just a couple days thousands of people will be sitting here and screaming. Rehearsals started sharply at 10:00 a.m., the rule being we had to learn and catch on to as many dances as we could, and if we knew the dance well enough, we could be in that dance. The pressure was on, I wanted to be in every dance so I worked for hours with Shiamak’s dancers and perfected as many as I could. Although we couldn’t dance for every one of the celebrities because of the time crunch, we did get to hold props and costume change the celebrities. We were fed every couple of hours to keep our energy intact, the meals included salad, ravioli, pasta, tiramisu, chocolate mousse, rice, fried chicken — it was delicious!

This day of practice was crucial because the celebrities started coming in the next day and it was imperative that our routine was complete before all the chaos began! Practice ended at 4:00 a.m., and we were told to be up by 7:00 a.m. the next day.

One of the rules that Shiamak had was to not be all star struck and constantly ask the celebrities for pictures — it was unprofessional. As hard as this sounds, it was easier to talk to celebrities because of it as they didn’t look at us as some crazy obsessed fans but as dancers.

Priyanka Chopra was the first one to come in and work on her routine; I was not the biggest fan of her as she was difficult to work with. She changed her routine about three times, and did not respect the dancers. Each celebrity came in about two times to practice their routine … she came in four times.

Siddarth Malhotra was a sweetheart, he was very shy and work oriented, he came in and worked on his routine and left. He allowed us to take pictures with him and was very fond of the U.S. winners.

(Above): Nehal Tenany proudly shows her 'dancer' badge for the 2014 IIFA Awards.

Ranveer Singh was playful and flirtatious. I remember him coming up to me and kissing my hand as I introduced myself. I later asked him for a picture and he said yes and kissed my cheek. It was so hard to be professional then because inside I was so happy.

Hrithik Roshan was by far the most favorite celebrity I worked with. He was fun to talk to and brought this crazy energy with him that pumped up all the dancers. I remember talking to him and he told me he was nervous right before the show and I just yelled at him “You got this! Show Florida who Hrithik is!”

Deepika Padukone was so down to earth; she’s even more gorgeous in person. She was also very work oriented, she came in and did her dance and left without complaints!

I got to open for Madhuri Dixit, which was so exciting considering she is the Queen of Dance! I also got to escort her up and down the stairs.

After 18 hours rehearsal days for three days, it was finally show time! All the dancers were seated in the dressing room and got their makeup done by MAC Cosmetics. We got beautiful costumes to wear and started putting all our props in the correct locations. The stadium started filling up with fans and finally the celebrities started coming in. I remember being speechless when I saw Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan because they looked flawless.

The show went perfectly with no problems, big congratulations to Deepika Padukone for winning best actress and Farhan Akhtar for winning best actor.

And just like that IIFA 2014 was over.

(Above): Hrithik Roshan (c) poses with his dancers including Nehal Tenany (front row, 3rd. from r) at 2014 IIFA.

I can honestly say that it was the best experience of my life. The friendships I made through this trip are incredible. Shiamak called all of the U.S. winners “The Faves” because he said we were his favorite. “The Faves” are some of the best people I’ve met in my life, I miss them like crazy after spending over 100 hours with them and can’t wait for a reunion soon.

I still feel so lucky to have been given the opportunity to dance with Shiamak Davar Dance Company and under Shiamak Davar, Maarzi, and Glen.

This whole experience would not have been possible without the support of my parents, they encouraged me to chase after my dreams and achieve the impossible. I’m incredibly grateful to have such a strong support system.

Not many parents encourage their children to pursue something in the “artistic field,” but I got lucky with the perfect pair of parents.

A big shout out to my second family, The University of Arizona, Om Shanti, without all of them I would not be half the dancer I am today. They encouraged me to just go for it and I did. And an even bigger shout out to my two biggest fans, Rishi Jethi and Richa Tenany. I’m blessed to have these two individuals care for me so much and push me to strive for bigger and better things continuously because of how much they believe in me.

Still can’t believe that it’s already over but my one take away message from this whole experience is that if you have a dream, go after it. There’s always going to be that “what if I get it” but you won’t know unless you try. The world is full of amazing opportunities but you can’t be afraid to just put yourself out there.

(Above): Thousands of fans, young and old, brave the scorching heat, as they waited for over three hours for the stars to arrive at the 2014 IIFA Green Carpet, in Tampa, Fla. The show that was supposed to end at midnight, ended at 3:30 AM. [Amar D. Gupta | Siliconeer]

A Specatator’s Views

Q: How excited were you to learn about IIFA happening in USA?

A: My husband and I were very excited to learn about IIFA happening in USA for the very first time. We booked out tickets immediately, six months in advance of the show date.

Q: Where did you travel from for IIFA. What were challenges while looking for transportation boarding etc.?

A: We traveled with out 2½-year-old from San Francisco Bay Area (San Jose) to Tampa Bay. We did face some challenges while booking our stay and luckily we found a home on ERBO that we rented for a couple of days since all the hotels were sold out. Flight and car wasn’t that bad and people in Tampa were really warm and helped us a lot.

Q: What did you see at IIFA on various days, what was worth, what was not?

A: We saw the green carpet event the night before the actual awards and we saw a lot of celebrities up close.

We also saw the IIFA show from 10 pm to 3:30 am and I think that was a bit of stretch especially with a toddler accompanying us.

We also went to the Hard Rock Café to meet and greet the stars that showed up there. All in all, it was a nice event and very well managed. 

(Above): Spectators and fans, like Vaidehi and her family, brave the heat, as they wait for stars to arrive at the 2014 IIFA Green Carpet, in Tampa, Fla. [Amar D. Gupta | Siliconeer]

Q: What should IIFA do better in the coming years, your views as a spectator?

A: I think they can manage timings of the event better. The stars need to be disciplined and punctual when it comes to timings. We waited for hours from three in the afternoon to see the stars on the Green Carpet. The time provided on the schedule was 4:30 p.m. and they leisurely arrived from 7 p.m. onwards. It was very frustrating to wait so long in the hot weather thinking the stars would follow some norms of punctuality as expected here in U.S. and show up on time, but they still decided to stick to their “Indian standard time.” 

Q: Do you feel you got your money’s worth. Was there something more you expected?

A: I think, as a fan, I would expect a little more interaction with the stars that I didn’t get. It was more or less like watching them on TV, and made no big difference, except for a big dent in our wallets.

Very few stars came in the crowd to meet the people. I think all the stars should do that. What is the point of going out of the way to meet them if most of them don’t feel comfortable doing the same for their fans?


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