Uploaded on Jun 3, 2010
Sangakkara hails Bollywood stars amid boycott call
by Mel Gunasekera -- Thu Jun 3, 7:40 am ET
COLOMBO (AFP) -- Sri Lanka's cricket captain Thursday applauded the "courage" of stars attending the annual Bollywood film awards being held this year in Sri Lanka despite a boycott call by the Tamil cinema industry.
Kumar Sangakkara said the Bollywood celebrities who have already arrived in Colombo for Saturday's glitzy Indian International Film Academy (IIFA) awards had refused to bow to outside pressure.
"I applaud you for your courage and commitment and standing by the ideals of IIFA," Sangakkara told reporters.
The film industry in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, which shares close cultural and religious links with Sri Lanka's ethnic Tamil minority, is calling for stars to stay away from the Colombo awards.
The Tamil Nadu lobby argues that holding the IIFA awards in Sri Lanka amounts to an endorsement of President Mahinda Rajapakse's military strategy that crushed Tamil Tiger rebels last year after decades of bloodshed.
The United Nations has reported that at least 7,000 Tamil civilians perished in the final months of fighting.
Sangakkara, who is playing a charity match with some of the Bollywood stars on Friday, said the money raised would go towards rehabilitation of former Tamil Tiger child soldiers and build homes for war-displaced Tamil civilians.
The organiser of IIFA, Wizcraft, has already dismissed the Tamil Nadu boycott call as being politically motivated. IIFA's own brand ambassador, Amitabh Bachchan, is yet to confirm his participation after he too came under pressure to stay away.
Bachchan's actor son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai -- Bollywood's leading couple -- are thought unlikely to attend, and megastar Shah Rukh Khan is confirmed to be staying away.
Some second tier stars, including Vivek Oberoi, Lara Datta, Ritesh Deshmuk, Biphasha Basu, Dia Mirza, Sanjay Dutt, Manish Malhotra have already arrived in the Sri Lankan capital.
Oberoi, who is hosting Thursday's evening IIFA fashion show, said he had been working with Sri Lankan Tamil children affected the conflict and wanted others too to support the cause.
He said he had had "concerns" before arriving in Sri Lanka, but the IIFA had agreed to support the cause of children affected by the island's drawn-out Tamil separatist conflict.
Oberoi said he was building a school for psychological rehabilitation of war-affected children together with UNICEF.
Sri Lanka hopes that the multi-million dollar extravaganza will improve the country's image and encourage more tourists to visit now the civil war has been over for more than one year.
Standard YouTube License