IIFA Awards 2023: Five highlights from Abu Dhabi's big Bollywood event

From an impromptu dance set to hilarious hosts, these were some of the evening's best bits

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A celebration of some of the biggest talents in Bollywood took place at Etihad Arena on Yas Island on Saturday night.

The star-studded International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA) ceremony, attended by some of the biggest names in the Hindi film industry, was an occasion filled with celebration, song and dance.

From hilarious hosts who got the tone just right, to a memorable ode to old Bollywood, these were some of the evening's highlights.

See the stars on the green carpet at IIFA Awards 2023

1. Kaushal and Bachchan's onstage chemistry

Actors Vicky Kaushal and Abhishek Bachchan were the main hosts of the IIFA Awards gala ceremony, and really stepped up following a disappointing performance from the hosts of IIFA Rocks on Friday night.

Bachchan and Kaushal were funny, had great chemistry together and played well off one another in a way that seemed completely natural. They bickered and poked fun at each other and their respective films during the performance, but the duo did so in a way that was genuinely funny and entertaining.

2. Varun Dhawan's hit-laden, aisle-dancing performance

Even before he took to the stage, Varun Dhawan had audiences excited about his performance. Dancing his way down the aisle from the back of Etihad Arena towards the stage to the tune of Nach Punjaban, he stopped at the front row to dance with some of his famous friends, including T-Series chief Bhushan Kumar and actors Vijay Varma and Anil Kapoor.

What really set Dhawan's performance apart was that while he danced to his own songs, he did so in the style of various other directors – a decision tat threw up some very unlikely combinations. He kicked things off with Oonchi Hai Building, reimagined in the style of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and set to the tune of Malhari.

Another interesting combination was a spin on the song Jangal Main Kaand from Dhawan's recent film Bhediya, but reimagined S S Rajamouli-style, set to the beat of the Oscar-winning track Naatu Naatu. The concept was a huge hit with audiences and Dhawan's high-energy performance was fantastic.

3. A perfect tribute to old Bollywood

Actress Rakul Preet Singh and dancer Nora Fatehi paid tribute to the Bollywood stars of yesteryear in their own classic style. Singh, dressed in a simple white dress and sporting a 1970s-style hairdo, moved to classics including Aaiye Meherbaan, Babuji Dheere Chalna, Ajeeb Dastan and Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu and delivered a short but sweet performance.

Fatehi took inspiration from the cabaret songs that have long been a mainstay of Bollywood, and which were made famous by actresses including Helen, Bindu and Aruna Irani. The actress and dancer took a more sensuous route, enthralling audiences with elaborate routines on popular Hindi cabaret tracks such as Piya Tu, Laila O Laila, Duniya Mein Logon Ko and Yeh Mera Dil.

4. Babil Khan dedicates best debut award to his late father

Babil Khan, son of the late Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan, won the Best Debut award for his role as Jagan in the 2022 Netflix film Qala.

During an emotional moment, Babil dedicated the award to his late father, and also thanked his mother, Sutapa Sikdar, recognising that being at the event was painful for her, as it was the first time she had attended the awards ceremony without her husband.

Babil shared the accolade with Shantantu Maheshwari, who won it for his role in Gangubai Kathiawadi.

5. Vicky Kaushal and Hrithik Roshan's impromptu dance set

Hrithik Roshan took the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the Abu Dhabi-filmed Vikram Vedha. On stage to collect the accolade, host Kaushal revealed how, as a child, he emulated Roshan's famous dance routine from the song Ek Pal Ka Jeena, which was a part of Roshan's debut film, Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai.

At the host's request, the two performed the routine live on stage, with co-host Bachchan also joining in on the action, and leading to what was the loudest cheer from the audience on the night.

IIFA 2023: Bollywood stars walk the green carpet in Abu Dhabi

IIFA 2023: Bollywood stars walk the green carpet in Abu Dhabi
Updated: May 29, 2023, 4:57 AM