IIFA New York at MetLife Stadium is just the beginning of great things in Meadowlands

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NEW YORK: Fans who’ve unwittingly gone to YouTube searching for a Hindi film starring Salman Khan, and instead landed on a video which is a full-length press conference to launch his film – end up watching it transfixed, are well aware of one thing: there are few people in Bollywood with more charm, down-to-earth wit, and lovely humor, than the 51-year-old actor.

It’s what adds to the appeal and charisma of Salman, who, over the years, has churned out relentless monster hit after hit film, as fans cannot get enough of him and his dashing avatars.

It was no different at a video conference the actor held from Taj Lands End, Mumbai, interacting with some journalists based in New York City, at the Sheraton Times Square, on June 1, to promote the upcoming IIFA New York event, at the MetLife Stadium, in Meadowlands, New Jersey, July 13-15.

Asked by this writer to give some anecdotes, recall memories from his past IIFA events, Salman, sitting in the middle between actresses Katrina Kaif and Alia Bhatt, deflected the question with self-deprecating humor, retorted with a smile: “Nothing. IIFA events are meant to be not remembered at all. After an IIFA event, you need two weeks to recover from it, you forget everything.”

Katrina talked about some of her favorite spots in the Big Apple, including Central Park, and the Meatpacking district – where one could watch films in an open theater (to which Salman ribbed that fans could go to all the spots she’s mentioned, hoping to see her, but she won’t be there, drawing guffaws from her), while Alia expressed her joy at making IIFA debut in New York City.

What Salman meant, of course, was that with all the great partying that goes on the sidelines of the IIFA awards, memories just tumble into one big heap to one side, with a halo of “Had a Great Time’ superimposed on them. He did say, a bit later, to another question, that fans will get an IIFA experience like never seen before. Well, one has to wait with bated breath for the action to unfold on stage in a few weeks from now.

But fans who go to watch Salman and others perform at the IIFA awards over the weekend in July, may well want to take another look at coming back to Meadowlands, which is around 8 miles from Times Square. If everything goes as planned, Meadowlands may soon become a prime tourist and vacation destination for people not just in America, but for people from around the world.

The New York Times reported that the much-delayed construction of the $3 billion American Dream mall in Meadowlands – right next to the MetLife stadium, which was announced 13 years ago, is going full speed ahead, with a goal to finish it by Spring 2019.

So what’s different about this mall?

A lot.

The American Dream Mall is going to be a unique blend of retail stores and entertainment venues — the sprawling complex is to include a six-acre indoor water park, a Ferris wheel, movie theaters, aquarium, an indoor amusement park, as well as popular outlets like Saks Fifth Avenue, Hermès, Toys “R” Us and Old Navy, according to the Times report.

“It should become the pre-eminent tourist attraction, not just in New York, but in all of North America,” said Don Ghermezian, whose family controls the Triple Five Group, the developers of the mall, was quoted saying. “There are 13 major attractions, ranging from a half-billion-dollar theme park to a $30 million aquarium.”

Here’s the thing: MetLife Stadium is home of the Giants and Jets football teams, plus round the year host other top notch quality sporting and entertainment events, including matches between quality European soccer teams and concerts featuring top artists.

With the arrival of the American Dream mall too alongside, it would be a unique vacation for an entire family, with a bevy of activities to choose from – heady mix of sports, entertainment, apart from the lure of NYC too. Perhaps the only thing missing would be a casino in the vicinity, for those inclined to gambling as well.

No doubt, IIFA is hugely popular. Fans in America are eager to see top Bollywood stars and A R Rahman perform, but it would be hard to sell out the 40,000 capacity MetLife Stadium in the middle of July, when a lot of families go on vacation. Everybody loves Salman, no doubt, but hey, the water sports theme park and aquarium and Ferris wheel of the mall, coming up in 2019, would have surely even induced families from the West Coast to plan a full-fledged week-long vacation at the Meadowlands.

Coming back to Salman: apart from his frequent interactions with Katrina – with whom he seems totally besotted with (and makes one wonder why they split up), my favorite moment of the fascinating and lively press conference with him: he had the entire room in New York sing “Happy Birthday to you Katrina”, after she revealed that her birthday was on July 16 – significant for her, because the TV channel Colors would telecast live the IIFA awards from July 15 evening in New York (IST morning July 16).

Folks, mall or no mall, just watching Salman Khan live on stage would be worth a visit to MetLife Stadium.

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