The slight drizzle in Dubai on Friday threatened to pull the rug (or should we say red carpet) right from under our feet. But when you have stars such as Colin Firth, Frieda Pinto, Kristin Davis of Sex And The City fame, Rooney Mara and Arab star Amr Waked in the same house despite some moody clouds, it would take no less than a hurricane to make the journalists in the press pen budge. And what a night it was.
The annual black-tie charity gala One Night To Change Lives held in association with Dubai Cares and Oxfam  took place outdoors against the backdrop of a towering Burj Khalifa  where the magnificent fountains at Armani Hotel Dubai lived up to their reputation.
The stars joined forces and raised a whopping $542,000 (Dh1,990,386) in less than three hours of relentless, but highly entertaining bidding. This year’s collection may not have surpassed last year’s $1 million mark, but it’s never easy to put a price to an evening that saw Firth impulsively auction off his Paul Smith “guilt-free” organic tuxedo or Frieda Pinto tease the bidders to unzip their wallets to take home her strapless red Valentino gown that she was wearing for the night.
“Come on guys, make me happy… I will give you the gown after I slip into my pajamas,” joked Pinto as she twirled to give her well-heeled guests a better look at the item on the auction block.
It was snapped up for $18,000 after she generously threw in a dinner and some dessert with her.
The Kings Speech  actor took it up a notch as he gave the ladies a feel of the fabric by going to a potential bidders’ table to display his fashion wares. He even threw in a hug to crank up the bidding war. “This tux has got a bit of give… I promise you can wear it before and after breakfast,” said Firth.
Earlier on the red carpet, the former Mr Darcy was relatively sober as he implored governments to ease trade regulations.
“I profoundly believe that any campaign against poverty is not just about handouts and charity or building paternalistic relationship. They should give people an opportunity to trade their way out of poverty,” said Firth. Referring specifically to Oxfam’s Trade Campaign, he expressed his desire to see big economies like Europe and America exercise free trade policies, plus open their markets to vulnerable countries to give the struggling markets a chance to survive.
“I could talk about it for days… But I believe that film festivals such as the Dubai International Film Festival can serve many functions. They can often be a vanity project or just a way to get people into one place. But this can be made into more than just an economic intersection. We can cross-pollinate culturally and build relationships for life,” said Firth who said his association with Oxfam began when he purchased his first CD in the store in his neighbourhood.
“I don’t know if I have changed lives, but Oxfam has certainly changed mine. I have met people who would never have been a part of my vision through Oxfam,” he said.
The Academy award winner was accompanied by his fashion entrepreneur wife Livia Firth who vociferously promoted fashion with a conscience on the red carpet.
While Firth was Mr Darcy-like (with that legendary Englishman reserve that grows on you) on the red carpet, ‘Sex And The City’ siren Davis was pretty Charlotte-like in her mannerisms. For those asking, there was no tantalising strip-tease but just pure, unadulterated charm from the Dior-clad Davis. She gushed about how wonderful Dubai was and joked about ‘Sex And The City’s’ not being filmed in the UAE despite the story being set here.
“I am in Dubai… I am pretty sure we are in Dubai right,” said Davis turning to her publicist for mock confirmation.
“Look, it [Sex And The City, the film] is a fictional movie. It was inspired by Dubai, our writers came here to Dubai and Abu Dhabi as well, but it is wonderful to be in person to be here… It’s my first time and it definitely won’t be my last,” she said.
Asked about her future projects, the on-screen Park Avenue princess from the hit TV series dubbed her current project as “playing mummy in real life”.
“Last year we were in England and discussing what happened here, the people in Dubai were so generous. The helped build so many schools in Pakistan and was a legendary fund raiser,” said Davis.
Later that night, she didn’t go all soft like a mother on the auctioneering front as she coaxed bidders to raise the stakes. She rushed to the stage as the limited edition collectible Hans Solo statue signed by George Lucas that depicted Harrison Ford’s iconic character in Star Wars: A New Hope went up on sale. The iconic statue was initially slated to be given away as a raffle draw, but generous guests were more than happy to make a bid.
While local crowd favourite and ‘City Of Life’ director Ali F Mostafa kicked off the bid, Davis helped in closing this deal.
“Wow, with this one in your hand you will be a hero among your friends. Even in the US, I have never seen anything like this. I bet, this is an investment piece and its value will definitely go up in five years,” said Davis.
They believed her. It got plucked for a healthy $14,000. The proud owner also did the unthinkable as she gifted Mostafa – an ardent Star Wars fan – with her latest acquisition.
The ‘Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ Rooney Mara may have impressed us with her daring fashion choice – a sheer black dress with interesting bust detailing – on the red carpet, but she wasn’t as robust as her glamorous peers during the gala dinner.
Livia Firth gave it her all as she placed her innovative red gown that she wore for this year’s Oscars under the hammer. Designed by Valentino duo Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli, the stunning gown was formed using recycled polyester from plastic bottles.
“Are you guys ready to make fashion history?” hollered Mrs Firth.
The eco-friendly gown which started bidding at $5,000 was picked off the rack for $14,000. Her true star power was displayed when she managed to raise $64,000 for diamond encrusted bespoke jewels.
“Come on make it higher, she may come to your date just wearing that,” said Firth in a suggestive tone.
Arab actor Amr Waked played his part to perfection as he made a rousing speech about lending a helping hand to the underprivileged – especially children in Tanzania.
“It’s up to us people to change their destiny. In Tanzania, children are deprived of education, sanitation and clean water. We are the privileged lot, let’s give them what we have,” said Waked. His emotionally-charged speech led to the pledge of $200,000 to Tanzania project.
Bollywood was represented by the likes of Malaika Arora Khan and designer Vikram Phadnis.
Khan took it upon herself to raise $18,000 for the renowned oil on canvas painting Lute Player and Horse in green by Iran’s Nasser Ovissi.
“Hello Dubai, I am so impressed with Dubai’s generosity. A big thank you. This painting will look great in your living room,” said Arora Khan with a flourish.
The rain gods may have threatened to play spoilsport during the evening held on the sidelines of Diff, but there were no cloudy faces in sight as stars and guests took it upon themselves to build a brighter a future for the poor.
Davis’ verdict about Dubai’s legendary generosity didn’t fall short of expectations.
“What’s not to love. We always talk about how generous Dubai is,” she said.
We second that.