Indians in Bangkok go crazy over their Bollywood idols

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Bangkok, June 9 (IANS) Screaming Indian fans got within handshaking distance of their favourite Bollywood stars over the weekend, collecting autographs and taking their pictures with their digital cameras as they descended on this bustling city for the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards.

Scores of fans, mostly young, gathered outside the Dusit Thani Hotel, one of the oldest five-star hotels here, to catch a glimpse of the stars during the three-day extravaganza that drew the cream of Bollywood led by the Bachchan clan.

From Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek, Aishwarya Rai, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor to Fardeen Khan, Akshay Kumar, Govinda, Zayed Khan, Katrina Kaif and Vivek Oberoi - people went ga-ga over the superstars as well as budding actors.

But the Bachchan family was the most popular of them all. Fans turned out in huge numbers to see the Bollywood's most sought after couple Aishwarya and Abhishek - they had the longest line of autograph seekers.

Rarely are such star-studded extravaganzas organised here. So, when the Bollywood fraternity was finally present in the city, not many missed the opportunity to see and talk to them.

"IIFA means a lot for us Indians living here. It is a perfect showcasing of India in terms of our stars and glamour," Ravi Mathur, who works as general manager in a company here, told IANS.

Thailand has a nearly 85,000-strong Indian diaspora, with families of many having settled in the country three-four generations ago.

Ashima, a young woman, was over the moon as her autograph book was full.

She said: "It's like a dream come true for us. We usually see them (stars) in films and admire them. But the experience of meeting them in person is ecstatic. I can't explain in words how I am feeling right now.

"All the stars are so nice. My favourite actor is Kareena Kapoor and favourite director is Yash Chopra. His films are so lively and I was thrilled when he greeted me so nicely and gave me an autograph as well."

And Bollywood stars were at their best behaviour and went all out to please their NRI fans, who came in droves and stood outside the main IIFA venue for hours to see them.

The IIFA, which has Amitabh as its brand ambassador, has till date been held in nine different locations across the world, including Dubai, Sun City and Singapore.

Said Richa Sachdev, who runs a provision shop here: "I am so happy that IIFA happened here this year. When I watched the award function in London, I never thought it will come here this time. Finally, it happened here. I am so delighted."

According to cine buffs, not all Hindi films are released here, though some popular ones are screened over the weekends.

"They run it for three days at the weekends," said Mita, a 26-year-old housewife.

"It's so good the IIFA happened here. We will cherish the experience. Most of the stars came out and paid attention to us. They shook hands with us, clicked pictures with us. We used to think that the stars have attitude, but in real life they are so good," she said excitedly.

"We read about it in the papers and we were really looking forward to it because stars coming to Bangkok mean a lot to us," said Gurjeet, who runs a hotel.

"When Deepika Padukone was shooting for 'Chandni Chowk To China' she stayed in our hotel. But seeing all the stars together is a completely different experience."

The grand IIFA awards ceremony was held at Siam Niramik here Sunday evening, complete with glitzy performances and Boman Irani and Riteish Deshmukh as hosts had the crowd in splits with their easy repartee.

The 2,000-capacity hall was full, with a majority of the audience comprising the Indian community.

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