EAST RUTHERFORD (New Jersey) •Bollywood's biggest stars led a triumphant celebration of dance, music and fashion at the International Indian Film Academy Awards last Saturday, cheered on by thousands of ecstatic fans at an American football stadium in New Jersey.
Best picture went to Neerja, a thriller based on the true story of a purser who helped save the lives of more than 350 passengers when Libyan-backed hijackers stormed Pan Am Flight 73 in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1986. The hijackers killed the purser and she posthumously became the youngest person, at age 22, to receive India's highest civilian award for bravery.
Udta Punjab, a gritty crime drama spotlighting the huge problem of drug abuse among young people in Punjab, scooped up the Best Actor award for Shahid Kapoor and the Best Actress prize for Alia Bhatt.
The movie angered politicians in the state and the film-makers took India's censors to court over a number of cuts they tried to make.
Rounding up the trio of serious- minded films was Pink, a movie about sexual violence against women, which got Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury the Best Director award.
The academy selected gender equality as its cause of the year, despite a film industry often criticised for depicting women as meek and subjecting characters to aggressive wooing by dominant male leads.
The five-hour awards show at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford - where the glittering Manhattan skyline was visible from the parking lot - was a riot of colour, glitz and stunning dance routines. It was the culmination of a three-day celebration of Indian cinema and is India's biggest media event and one of the world's most-watched annual entertainment shows, with an audience of nearly 800 million people.