An outdoor festival celebrating South Asian music, dance and fashion will enliven the downtown Toronto neighbourhood hosting the International Indian Film Academy Awards on Saturday afternoon.

Dubbed Samsara and hosted by the city of Toronto, the sprawling, free event will encompass areas surrounding the Rogers Centre — where the awards gala takes place Saturday night — and the CN Tower.

"We're making the whole site into a festival," Harold Mah, event support manager for the city of Toronto, told CBC News on Friday.

"We're going to entertain the crowds. They're not just going to be standing around for hours."

Three stages will showcase music, dance troupes, a film series, DJs spinning tunes and fashion shows, while roving performers will weave through the crowds beginning at 2 p.m.

Once the star-studded green carpet event begins at 6 p.m., the festival's large outdoor screens will transform into viewing stations.

"The best part is, when the actual show begins...they can turn around and look at the screens and be a part of it," Mah said.

Prestigious gig

"These film awards are really, really important. It holds a whole lot of prestige," said Suba Sankaran, co-creator of the Juno-nominated world music ensemble Autorickshaw.

"As a proud Torontonian, I just thought this was great that we are the host city."

Autorickshaw — just one of approximately 50 acts being featured on Saturday — hopes to inspire the crowds with its Bollywood Rewind project, in which the ensemble performs covers of infectious, over-the-top hit songs from vintage Bollywood films.

"We're going for the crazy, wide-collared gangster, exploding briefcase era of '70s Bollywood, when the musicians and the musical directors of the time were discovering influences of the West and integrating them in a very, very different context. The sounds and the choices they make are very unusual," said Autorickshaw's Ed Hanley.

"A lot of people [say] 'Whoa, that's crazy. I don't like it.' But then they listen to it again and go 'That's so crazy, it's great.'"

Electronic protest band Lal will offer up a different flavour than the traditional Bollywood sound, according to lead singer Rosina Kazi.

"Our music is definitely influenced by South Asian culture," she said.

"But we're almost the opposite of IIFA. We're very much rooted in grassroots, activist and social justice-based work. I think we're an interesting addition because a lot of the time it doesn't get addressed in the Bollywood films or it gets addressed in strange ways. So we're going to bring some of that energy to the celebrations."

Kazi recalled the warm reception Lal had when the band travelled and played in India, and the enjoyment the group had when listening to Indian music.

"You can't help but feel joy when you hear some of these songs," she said.

"To be able to participate in something that has definitely influenced our histories or our own personal lives from a distance, and then just to be mixed up in it and to expose ourselves to a community that may not know what we do...It's going to be really fascinating," she said.