With all eyes on the sumptuously decorated stage, with around 300 guests from New York & New Jersey in audience, expectations were running high to hear the names of 15 women “Honourees” who have left an indelible impression on society in the USA.  An event that has been the talk of town since announced three weeks ago, the IAA Women Achiever Awards held at the newly built Marigold in New Jersey had everything on offer that raised expectations.  Fifteen women were to be selected through a process audited by Ernst & Young, a fundraiser with Chief Guest Shabana Azmi and a fashion show by fashion superstar Manish Malhotra for Mijwan Welfare Society, a NGO run by Shabana, at a venue that has created a name for its grandeur in a short time, it was an evening to watch.

Guests began arriving early and crowded the reception to ensure they got best seats after a formal photo-op. The bar was soon filled with hundreds, and some of outfits would indeed have surprised celebrity designer Manish Malhotra.  Many wanted to know the winners since such events have rarely presented surprise. But Tanvi Prenita Chandra, promoter and Vandana Krishna, brain behind the event lived upto her promise, and nobody including the “Honourees” came to know about the surprise to unfold.  Manish Malhotra got busy with models wanting to make his maiden presentation the best ever in the East coast.  Photographers ensured they clicked pics of the most notable guests from Tri-State which would fill facebook after the event. Selfie stars were busy too, competing with each other in putting maximum into one frame.  Cineyug promoter Aly Morani was quietly checking the finishing of the grand room for stage and settings, rather a first of its kind where the evening was to unfold. A totally new concept of a fashion show with top models were to walk on the floor with a ramp-style setting between front three rows, thus, giving the audience a closer view of beautiful dresses of Mijwan collection by celebrity Manish Malhotra.

Vandana Krishna introduced the evening and awards event, sharing an overview of the upcoming Indian Academy Awards to be held in California in July.  Vandana Krishna and Saurabh Pandey, two entertainment industry old-timers are launching their awards event in SFO with Bollywood, Tollywood and Hollywood stars as guests and performers where winners will be announced once again through a popular selection process audited by Ernst & Young. The grand 2-day event is expected to host a 50,000 large audience. The event was announced in Mumbai during the last week of December by RAEES Bollywood Badshah Shahrukh Khan, and launched at a media conference by superstar Madhuri Dixit in Santa Clara in January. Vandana said, “As an initiative of the Indian Academy Awards we want to share the success stories of real women with the world, to encourage all the Non Residents of India. True stories of women entrepreneurs are an inspiration to change the world. Today’s women are making the difference with their innovative ideas, seeking solutions and reclaiming their status as equals. We want to create a platform to honor these women and to share their success with the world.”

Tanvi Prenita Chandra, the local promoter for hosting the show, said: “Women empowerment … this cause is very close to my heart and I feel fortunate to get this opportunity to host this history-making event with most respected Bollywood icon Shabana Azmi ji and world famous designer Manish Malhotra.  A big thank you to the sponsors for the support of this great cause. I have done my best to present a different type of show with celebrities from Mumbai and feel happy it has all come together in flying colors witnessed by elite crowd in such a short span of three weeks.”

Host Nisha Mathur, herself a celebrity, opened the evening and in her inimitable style announced the winners one-by-one. The honourees graced the stage and accepted the honours to an applaud by audience which marked the recognition by all. Fifteen honorees who had travelled from all over just like other guests to attend the event and were caught by surprise when their names were announced. Shabana Azmi presented the awards to each honouree as Nisha invited them after a brief intro.  As mentioned earlier, winners were selected via a nomination process managed by E&Y.  The final jury members comprising of Bollywood actresses Manjari Phadnis and Chitrashi Rawat, Wellness and grooming expert Avni Gandhi Varma made the final selection.  The next segment included the introduction of Mijwan Welfare Society by Shabana Azmi, who shared the details of her father, Kaifi Azmi’s dream for the small village in UP that has seen transformation via funds raised by the NGO to support women.  Azmi’s humility and happiness was visible as she fondly recalled the time she had spent with her father – a great poet who supported equality of women. She expressed her gratitude to Manish Malhotra and the generous audience, as well as every donor till date who has supported the Society.

The finale was a fashion show as colorful lights came up and beautiful models displayed their dresses. One could see the audience was dazzled with the exquisite hand embroidery called Chikankari by Mijwan Women. The ‘Mijwan Summer Couture 2017’ was clearly the highlight of the evening. The grace with which each model walked and carried the dress, almost everyone in audience captured the view with eyes while top photographers and cameraman from television channels captured through their lens. Music enhanced the walk on the ramp between the aisles and many women in the audience could touch the dresses with their cell phones cameras to decide on their choices.  About thirty minutes of mesmerizing presentation before Manish Malhotra came to the stage himself in his customary style to accept the honours.

Manish Malhotra has pulled women out of oblivion and brought their craft to the doorsteps of Bollywood by creating glamorous outfits in his signature style. By giving women gainful employment, he has given the women to negotiate more space for themselves within the family structure.  The show epitomized the continuous realization of Kaifi Saab’s vision and the wonderful legacy of hope for his village, Mijwan.  The evening came to an end with the fund raiser, and Ms. Azmi assisted by her US associate Ketki Parikh collected the checks with a humble thanks that will help spread the word for the Mijwan Society all over US in times ahead.

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