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TOIFA Vancouver Celebrates Women's Spirit, Power

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Where can you find B-list Bollywood actresses, local media personalities and a few government employees to boot? All were had at the Times of India Film Awards Women's Day event at the River Rock Casino this past weekend.

The Times of India Film Awards commemorated International Women's Day with an invite-only event celebrating the spirit and power of women. The centerpiece of the evening was a panel discussion with local and Indian female entertainers and entrepreneurs, including Bollywood B-listers Dia Mirza, Perizaad Zorabian and former Miss World Diana Hayden.

The evening began with a wine reception and photographers snapping local media personalities, politicians, and entrepreneurs dressed in beautiful saris, gowns and cocktail dresses. Guests were then ushered into the theatre to watch the panel discussion moderated by CBC reporter Belle Puri, which was followed by two fashion shows, a musical performance by percussion ensemble "Sticks n' Skins," and dinner.

Highlights of the evening: We loved the fashion show by Indian designer Satya Paul, featuring Miss Femina India pageant contestants wearing iconic digital print saris from his Pop Art, Back to the Future and Lumiere collections. We're reserving our judgment on the point of pageants and how they contribute to the empowerment and success of women, but those models were fantastic on the runway and the saris a refreshing rainbow of summer-inspired colours and prints. We also loved hearing from Indian actress Diana Hayden, whose honest and raw discussion about the challenges of growing up in a home with divorced parents and her unconventional career path had us transfixed.

Low points of the evening: Listening to Indian actress and entrepreneur Perizaad Zorabian talk about the sad challenges of being rich, successful and beautiful. The lack of organization when it came to seating guests for the panel and fashion show was not missed.

We wish... there had been more inspiring women representing Bollywood. As lovely as Zorabian may be, we look for a little (OK a lot) more substance when reflecting on women's global issues. Give us Shabana Azmi, Gul Panag, Kiran Rao, even Lara Datta, please.

The panelists we did like: British Columbia, represent! CBC Reporter Belle Puri was a great moderator, and local broadcaster Shushma Datt brought her A-game, as usual. Dr. Shimi Kang, Clinical Associate Professor at UBC, was an unexpected and nice addition to the mix. We also appreciated the stories shared by BC Minister of Children and Family Development, the Honourable Stephanie Cadieux.

Covetable look: We loved the simplicity of OMNI TV host Tarannum Thind's anarkali suit. Light and summery, it echoed the sunshine that took Vancouver by surprise earlier that day.

Proceeds from the evening benefited the Minerva Foundation for BC Women, who work to elevate the visibility, influence and contribution of women leaders.

Overall, we're excited to see what the Times of India Film Awards will bring to Vancouver on April 6. Outstanding red carpet fashion? Hosting by actor Ranbir Kapoor that rivals Seth MacFarlane's recent turn at the Oscars? Reports of illicit rendezvous between Bollywood directors and actors?

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TOIFA Vancouver Women's Day Event, March 2013
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