“I’m here for Abu Dhabi,” Bollywood superstar Salman Khan said on Thursday at a curtain raiser to officially introduce the International Indian Film Academy Awards, to be held on Friday and Saturday at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island.
The UAE capital is playing host to the awards show for the first time, which celebrates the best of Bollywood films and talents from the previous year.
The first event on Friday, IIFA Rocks, will be dedicated to music and fashion, while some of Bollywood's biggest stars are expected on the gala night on Saturday, where they will honour their colleagues and watch performances.
Khan, who is hosting the gala night, joined co-hosts Maniesh Paul and Riteish Deshmukh as well as performers Tiger Shroff, Shahid Kapoor, Ananya Panday and Sara Ali Khan on stage.
“I’ve known [the guys behind] IIFA since childhood and they’ve been exploiting me since,” Khan joked. “I have shared a long and successful relationship with Abu Dhabi. I have done several movies here. And it is so much fun being here."
Kapoor, who has performed at and hosted previous IIFA Awards, said he was glad to see live events being held again.
The IIFA Awards were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s so good to be travelling and meeting people again,” said Kapoor, who also revealed his performance will include a tribute to singer and composer Bappi Lahiri who died in February aged 69.
Ananya Panday, who made her Bollywood debut with the 2019 film Student of the Year 2, said her performance on Saturday would be her first time live on stage.
“I’m nervous and excited, but I’m so happy to be here in Abu Dhabi for such a massive event,” she said.
Director Farah Khan and actor Aparshakti Khurana, the hosts of IIFA Rocks, were also at the event, along with some of the night’s scheduled performers: composer and singer Devi Sri Prasad, composer Tanishk Bagchi and singers Asees Kaur, Zahrah S Khan and Dhvani Bhanushali.
Rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh gave guests a taster of his performance.
Mohamed Al Zaabi, chief executive of Miral, the developer of Yas Island, welcomed the stars in Hindi.
“We are going to have an amazing weekend together, filled with cinema, fashion and culture,” he said. “Abu Dhabi is becoming a global destination for entertainment and international events like the IIFA Awards is a perfect example.”
First held in 2000, in London, the IIFA Awards were conceived by Mumbai event company Wizcraft International Entertainment. They’ve since been held in a different city every year. Dubai hosted in 2006.
Tickets to IIFA Rocks on Friday start at Dh55, while tickets to the IIFA Awards on Saturday are close to selling out, with just Middle Tier B (Dh440) and Lower Tier B (Dh1,000) still available at etihadarena.ae.
Scroll through the gallery for stars arriving for the IIFA Awards 2022 in Abu Dhabi: