06/03/2010, 00.00
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Tamil groups boycott Indian "Oscars"

by Melani Manel Perera
11th award ceremony of the International Indian Film (IIFA) held today in Colombo. But Tamil groups call for a boycott in protest against the Rajapaksa government, accused of having killed thousands of Tamils.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – The 11th Columbus International Film Indian Academy (IIFA) awards ceremony is set to take place tonight in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, the largest annual event of the South Asian cinema.  But the Tamil Film Fraternity Group (FFT) in India has asked everyone to boycott the event in protest against the Sri Lankan government.

The program is intense and the awards include a fashion show, cricket matches (very popular sport in South Asia), and  musical performances. It will be the first major event in Sri Lanka after the long civil war. The Sri Lankan authorities have spent billions of rupees for the organization and expect a success among tourists as well as the participation of personalities from the world of business and entertainment. Over 25 thousand policemen and soldiers provide security.

Dileep Mudadeniya, head of the Sri Lanka Operating Office for Tourism Promotion, which has invested 4 billion rupees (about 56 million) in the event, forecasts a strong influx of fans of the stars of Bollywood and Indian film and hopes that this is will be a show case opportunity for the country and attract investment, especially in tourism and entertainment.

The Colombo Municipal Council has also invested 100 million rupees to improve the infrastructure of the city.

On the sidelines of the ceremony initiatives are planned to raise funds for victims of civil war. Such as a cricket match between local players and Bollywood stars like Hrithik Roshan and actors Sunil Shetty, to build 100 homes in Kilinochchi to house the war refugees. Funds, managed by the actor Salman Khan, will also be allocated to UNICEF rehabilitation program for child soldiers and homeless children in the north.

But the FFT, which includes artists, directors, producers, technicians, distributors and cinema owners, on May 28 in Chennai demanded a boycott of the event. The group explained that it is not against the IIFA but considers "unacceptable" that the event takes place in Colombo, giving publicity to the Government of President Rajapaksa, "the Sri Lankan Sinhala government which last year killed thousands of Tamil men, women and children and transformed Eelam into a burial ground. The death screams still echo in the ears of Tamils around the world. " The FFT statement recalls how, during the civil war, the entire Tamil film industry made several public events to seek to stop the massacre, but the government remained indifferent. The resolution has been supported by, among others, the Film Employees Association of South India, the South Indian Film Artiste’s Association, the Tamil Film Producers association, the Film Distributors Association, the Theatre Owners Association and the Television Artiste’s Association

The boycott has received support from various persons, such as the popular songwriter Tamarai Subramaniam.

The famous Bollywood star Amitab Bachchan, who is also IIFA (pictured) ambassador, will not attend the ceremony. Actors Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Shah Rukh Khan and Arjun Rampal will also be absent, although they speak of previous work commitments. Actors Kamal Haasan and Rajanikanth and director Mani Ratnam declined the invitation.

The boycott was criticized by Jacqueline Fernandez Miss Sri Lanka and former Bollywood star, who believes that at this critical juncture the country needs the support and help of everyone, it must go beyond the war and build peace in the country .

Even Lakshman Yapa Abeywardana, Deputy Minister for Economic Development, believes the festival is an "opportunity" to raise awareness of Sri Lanka strengthen ties with IIFA and promote the film industry.  


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