x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Bollywood competition winners premiere disappointment

Several people who won a chance to meet Bollywood stars say the meeting didn't go as they had planned.

Fatmah Sohail holds up movie merchandise that she had won at Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi. Mrs Sohail left disappointed as she could not personally meet the Bollywood stars Katrina Kaif and Imran Khan.
Fatmah Sohail holds up movie merchandise that she had won at Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi. Mrs Sohail left disappointed as she could not personally meet the Bollywood stars Katrina Kaif and Imran Khan.

ABU DHABI // They came clutching scraps of paper for autographs and the promise of meeting their screen idols.

But some of the winners in a television competition to meet Bollywood stars at an Abu Dhabi film premiere say they left empty-handed and did not exchange a word with their heroes and heroines.

Their claims were denied by Zee Aflam, the Bollywood station running the competition.

Fatmah Sohail, 29, and Naser Al Otaiba, 27, were two of three winners to beat 1,500 other entrants to the top prize offered by Zee Aflam: a meet and greet with the leading names of the latest release from Yash Raj Films, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan.

The two Emiratis had high hopes of telling Katrina Kaif, Imran Khan and Ali Zafar how much they admired them.

But they said they were bitterly disappointed when they were kept at bay by film production officials.

The third winner, Murtaza Poonawala, from India, said he squeezed in less than a minute of banter with Khan before being moved on.

The winners said they were promised between 10 and 15 minutes with the actors and a pair of tickets each for the premiere.

They arrived excited at 12.30pm on Wednesday, then waited three hours during a press conference about the movie before being ushered into a room.

But instead of private time with the stars, they said they were surrounded by camera crews and media.

"We did not get to speak to them and I was not even allowed to ask Katrina how she was," said Mrs Sohail, who drove from Ras Al Khaimah for the event with her son Mohammad, 4.

"Myself and Naser were very upset. I watch Zee Aflam all the time. It is my favourite channel and Katrina is the best actress.

"I loved her in Namastey London and was so excited when they called me to say I had won. I had prayed I would win. I thought I would get a chance to say how much I love her and how happy I was that she was in my country.

"I was going to ask her for tips on how she does her make-up and how she cares for her hair, but I never got a chance."

Mr Al Otaiba, of Abu Dhabi, took his cousin Amir Al Ale. Both had taken their premiere tickets to be signed, but said they left without autographs.

"We were waiting for a long time but when we were finally allowed in the room we were told we could not have pictures with the stars," Mr Al Otaiba said.

"We asked why and explained we had won a competition, but they stopped us. We were upset.

"I wanted to talk to Imran Khan and shake his hand. When he saw us talking to the officials he came to try to talk to us, because he is a good man, but they stopped him."

Mr Al Otaiba said the experience tainted his enjoyment of the film, which he saw on Wednesday night in Marina Mall.

"We are winners but we feel like losers," Mr Al Ale added.

Mr Poonawala, 31, who took his wife Alifiya, 27, said he got a picture of himself with Khan and exchanged a few brief words with the actor.

"I sat next to him just for a few seconds," he said. "I asked him how he found his stay in Abu Dhabi and he told me he loved the country.

"My wife told Katrina she looked beautiful but I did not have any direct contact with her. There was not that much time."

The couple had "a few seconds - less than a minute" to talk to the stars and another three minutes to take photos.

But Mr Poonawala said he found the experience a pleasant one.

"I am from Mumbai and I know how events like this can turn to chaos," he said. "Compared to that it was all right. They are on a tight schedule so I did not expect to speak to them for too long."

Tamer Al Sherbini, the head of marketing at Zee Aflam, denied the claims by Mrs Sohail and Mr Al Otaiba that they were short-changed.

"All three winners had the opportunity to meet and greet the stars of the film during the allotted time," Mr Al Sherbini said.

"They also had their photographs with the stars, received the stars' autographs and were provided with passes for the movie premiere."

He said winners were also given goodie bags containing signed CDs and T-shirts.

Although the companies's official photographer snapped Mrs Sohail sitting near the stars, she and Mr Al Otaiba insisted they were never aware of a photo being taken and were not given the chance to ask for a personalised autograph.

"I want an apology from the production company and to meet Katrina properly next time she comes to Abu Dhabi," Mrs Sohail said.

tyaqoob@thenational.ae