B.C. Premier Christy Clark has confirmed the province will spend $9.5 million to host the first-ever Times of India Film Awards at BC Place in Vancouver this April.
Rumors about announcement had been circulating since last week, but on Tuesday morning Clark announced events linked to the awards will be held across metro Vancouver from April 4 to 6.
Clark said hundreds of millions of people are expected to watch the Bollywood awards on television, along with added exposure in the various publications of the Times Group.
"This is a tremendous economic opportunity for British Columbia to reach new markets — one that we will take advantage of," said Clark.
The government will spend an additional $1.5 million to host a B.C.–India business forum and other trade events during the awards.
Altogether the events are expected to generate between $13 million and $18 million in spending in B.C., said Clark.
Political timing questioned
Despite the upbeat predictions, the Times of India Film Awards have never been held before and it is not clear if they will be considered a top-tier event in India.
The Times of India already runs the annual Filmfare awards, which have been running since 1954 and are regarded as one the leading awards in the Indian film industry.
Nevertheless, Kamal Sharma, a local concert promoter with strong ties to India's movie industry, says he expects some major stars to show up.
"In my talks, I’ve been sort of given the assurance that we will be seeing some of the best of the best of Bollywood."
The plan reportedly came together after Clark's bid to host a different Bollywood event, the International Indian Film Academy Awards, failed. In 2011, the Ontario government spent $12 million to bring India's Film Academy Awards to Toronto.
The timing for the awards event means it will take place just weeks before the May provincial election.
Hot topic on talk radio
Gurpreet Singh, a talk show host with Surrey-based Radio India says the event is a hot topic with callers.
"They think it's a political gimmick because it's happening too close to the upcoming provincial election."
Singh says callers are raising questions about the province’s motivation in hosting the awards.
"The local film industry isn't getting much help from the B.C. government, so what kind of message the government is trying to convey by inviting Bollywood stars over here?" he said.
The announcement comes as Clark faces criticism for not offering the North American film industry enough tax breaks to keep productions rolling in B.C.
"[The callers] feel that it's part of [the Liberal’s]
social or political engineering within the South Asian community because this was what was done by the Liberals in Ontario."