Day 1: Thursday, June 9, 2005. Amsterdam is where the action is. The cr? de la cr? of the entertainment industry have started descending on Amsterdam to be a part of the most looked forward to event of the year: The I.I.F.A. weekend, from June 9 to 11. The traffic has virtually come to a standstill at The Grand, with leading luminaries arriving in swanky cars to participate in the ongoing celebrations of Indian cinema. The guest-list is truly impressive. Kareena and beau Shahid Kapoor are busy trying falafels at one of the local joints. Dad Randhir Kapoor is accompanying them as well. We're having a blast, both Shahid and Kareena tell me Reputed directors Ashutosh Gowariker, Madhur Bhandarkar, Vipul Amrutlal Shah and Kunal Kohli feast themselves to ice-creams at Dam Square Saif Ali Khan walks in with girl-friend Rosa, oblivious to the public gaze Designer Manish Malhotra and Urmila Matondkar also decide to visit Dam Square Farah Khan and hubby Shirish Kunder decide to do some sight-seeing [extended honeymoon, may I say?] J.P. Dutta, wife Bindiya and daughter have flown from London [had a long chat with J.P. - watch this space for some news-breaking stuff!] decide to keep the scripting of their film on Maharani Gayatri Devi on hold for three days to accommodate I.I.F.A And the most explosive development of all: Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai come face to face. But don't expect them to exchange pleasantries. Salman was unable to deliver a speech on I.I.F.A. I am emotional today, he remarked and left the dais, with Ash and mom looking completely dazed. I've always felt that the film fraternity is most relaxed during the I.I.F.A. weekends, away from the hustle-bustle of Mumbai studios. The meticulous planning with which Sabbas, Andre and Viraf function only makes I.I.F.A. a memorable affair. This year is no exception! BIG B STARTS OFF PROCEEDINGS Amitabh Bachchan, the brand ambassador of I.I.F.A., officially launched the three-day event with a press meet. Introducing the Netherlands officials who made the event possible, Sabbas Joseph, one of the three organizers of I.I.F.A. [along with Andre Timmins and Viraf Sarkari], spoke about at length about the various events that are supposed to take place on the three days. I.I.F.A. is a brand today. And we are proud that we've made an honest effort to take Indian cinema beyond the shores of India, Sabbas informs me. The high point of the gathering is Aishwarya Rai being asked to pour champagne on a small Tulip plantation [it's a custom in Netherlands]. 'MARIGOLD' CURTAIN RAISER The first film to be unveiled to the global media is the Bollywood-Hollywood co-production MARIGOLD. Now finally complete, the team behind the film - director Willard Carroll, Pravin Nischol of Entertainment One [the co-producers], Salman Khan, Ali Larter [she has specially flown in from U.S.A.] and Siddharth Jain of Hyperion Pictures India - talk about the film in general. This is my first step towards Hollywood. And the only step I've undertaken so far, Salman Khan tells me, when I ask him about his plans of doing a balancing between Hollywood and Bollywood projects. He continues in the same breath, Yes, it was tough delivering those lines in English. After doing so many Hindi films, it's tough to suddenly emote for an English film. You may not believe this, but Ali Larter hated Salman when they started shooting for the film. Ali hated me initially, but we became friends gradually, Salman laughs, while Ali pinches Salman. MARIGOLD is scheduled for release in January 2006 and Jain and Nischol reveal that they are ready with the distribution plans. Ironically, the film has been made in English language and might NOT be dubbed in Hindi. Portions of MARIGOLD were viewed by this writer. Must say, very impressive!
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