Sri Lanka cricket captain Kumar Sangakkara and his teammate Sanath Jayasuriya believe that IIFA Awards 2010, to be held in Colombo June 3-5, are a "big opportunity" to promote Sri Lanka in Bollywood and foster a better relationship between the two countries.
"It's a big opportunity to promote Sri Lanka among the film fraternity here. Sri Lankans are very big fans of Bollywood and the film industry is very popular in Sri Lanka," Sanath Jayasuriya told IANS in an exclusive interview.
"Sri Lankans are looking forward to this big event. It's nice for our country and good for the relations between the two countries," he added.
Kumar Sangakkara, captain of both the Sri Lankan cricket team and actress Preity Zinta's Indian Premier League (IPL) team Kings XI Punjab, agrees that Bollywood has a huge presence in Sri Lanka.
"Bollywood is a great hit in Sri Lanka and all over the world. I think everyone in the world has sat up and taken notice of how big Bollywood is, how attractive it is and how talented the stars are," Sangakkara said.
He will reprise his role of a captain in charity cricket matches in Colombo between Indian celebrities and Sri Lankan cricketers, to be organised by the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) to help rehabilitate former Tamil Tiger child soldiers.
"It will be lot of fun and lot of entertainment. It is also a very touching humanitarian cause as a village for 100 families will be built. Entertainment tied with IIFA humanity project and also Cricket for Children where child soldiers will be re-educated, rehabilitated and given a better way of life, is a great initiative," Sangakkara said.
The wicket keeper and left-handed batsman said he was a big Bollywood movie buff.
"The first Hindi movie I watched was 'Bombay'. Then I saw 'Lagaan' and have watched others like 'Monsoon Wedding' and 'Water'. I like quite a few and the messages the films carry are very relevant and touching," Sangakkara said.
While all-rounder cricketer Jayasuriya likes Shah Rukh Khan's movies, Sangakkara likes all the Khans, appreciates Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah's work and was all praise for Bollywood actresses.
"I have seen few Shah Rukh Khan films. On the local channels, Hindi movies are shown always. Sometimes we watch them even when we don't know the movie name. I like Shah Rukh Khan movies and never miss them," Jayasuriya said.
Sangakkara said: "I like Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman. I have seen Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah in various roles. And there are some most talented and beautiful ladies of the world in Bollywood."
Asked whom they would like to see performing at the IIFA Awards, Jayasuriya quipped: "I would always like to see Aishwarya Rai performing on stage."
Sangakkara had "no particular favourite".
"I would like to see all the actresses who would come to Sri Lanka. If they do perform on stage, it will be an added attraction," he said.
Tamils from India hugely protested against IIFA Awards being held in Sri Lanka following allegations of a genocide against Sri Lankan Tamils during the war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and continuing discrimination against them.
The South Indian film associations have decided to boycott any actor who participates in the awards ceremony in Sri Lanka.
Asked about their take on it, Jayasuriya said: "I want the entire Bollywood to come to Sri Lanka. You are all welcome to our country and we will look after you with great care. It's between Sri Lanka and India. We share a very good relationship and we want to strengthen it further."
Sangakkara said: "I think the whole spirit of IIFA is to transcend all barriers - social and political. I think IIFA would break down barriers and build the relationship. It's a great opportunity for Sri Lanka to showcase its hospitality."