IIFA Awards 2022 in Abu Dhabi: what to expect from the 'epic' Bollywood event

Actor Salman Khan will host the annual Hindi film event, while Ranveer Singh is one of its headline performers

Bollywood stars Salman Khan, Ananya Panday and Varun Dhawan attend a press conference for the 22nd International Indian Film Academy Weekend & Awards. AFP
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The International Indian Film Academy Awards are returning to the UAE for the first time since 2006, with Abu Dhabi playing host in May. To be held at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island, the IIFA Weekend & Awards will feature performances by some of the biggest Indian stars across two days, on May 20 and 21, with many of the top films and actors of the past year to be honoured on the second night.

The event was initially scheduled to be held in March, but was postponed "due to changing circumstances in the spread of the Covid-19 virus", organisers said.

"We at IIFA are responsible and committed to ensure the safety of the citizens and multitudes of IIFA fans who travel from across the globe to attend and experience the magic," they said.

Bollywood star Salman Khan will play host at the gala awards night, along with actors Riteish Deshmukh and Maniesh Paul. Performers include Ranveer Singh, who was recently named the brand ambassador for Yas Island, as well as actors Varun Dhawan and Ananya Panday.

Salman Khan performs at the IIFA Awards in New Jersey in 2017. Reuters

“I have always enjoyed being a part of the IIFA family and travelling to some great destinations, but this year I am super-happy that we are headed to one of my personal favourites, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi," Khan said.

"IIFA is always a memorable time and this year it will be an even bigger celebration as we celebrate the 75th year of India’s independence and the UAE’s 50th anniversary Golden Jubilee."

Speaking at an event in Mumbai in March to announce some of the performers, Dhawan said the IIFA Awards has given him "some very precious moments".

"Holding the IIFA trophy, performing in the festivities is special. In this edition, we are travelling to Abu Dhabi, which is one of my favourite cities, and I am really looking forward to connecting with fans and having a fun time overall."

What are the IIFA Awards?

First held in the year 2000, in London, the IIFA Awards were conceptualised by Mumbai event company Wizcraft International Entertainment to honour the best Hindi films and movie talents of the previous year. It is held in a different country every year, and has been instrumental in boosting Bollywood's popularity globally.

Dubai hosted the event in 2006, and so has Bangkok, New York, Colombo, Amsterdam, Madrid, Florida, Kuala Lumpur and Macau.

While the 2020 and 2021 events were cancelled owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the last IIFA event was held in Mumbai, the home of Bollywood.

"Over the last 21 years, the IIFA has not only given Indian cinema an international platform, but it has created a wonderful opportunity to take us to our fans and connect millions of people globally," Khan said.

What happens at the IIFA Weekend & Awards?

Actress Parineeti Chopra and director and producer Karan Johar will host IIFA Rocks, the music event one day before the main IIFA Awards in Abu Dhabi. Photo: IIFA

Usually spread across several days, the IIFA Awards features concerts, fashion shows and promotional events. But the final evening is the gala awards night when the biggest stars arrive.

The event will begin with IIFA Rocks, a night dedicated to music, on May 20, hosted by actress Parineeti Chopra and director and producer Karan Johar. Performers announced so far for the night include composer and singer Devi Sri Prasad, music whiz Tanishk Bagchi, singer Neha Kakkar and Dhvani Bhanushali. Punjabi pop star Guru Randhawa and rapper Honey Singh will also present their new collaboration, the single Designer.

"The IIFA has always been associated with bringing global fans closer to Bollywood and closer to all of us. So being a part of the IIFA has always been special, but this time it's even more special because it's happening at Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, and I am super-excited to be there and meet everyone," Chopra said.

Johar, who is also known for his talk show Koffee with Karan, said the IIFA Awards is "beyond just an event".

"It’s a brand and a platform where talent is bestowed on from music, arts and culture along with fashion shows that make it an extravagant weekend," he said.

What to expect in Abu Dhabi

After a two-year break, the next IIFA event promises to return with a bang at Etihad Arena, the state-of-the-art indoor stadium on Yas Island.

"I am proud and excited to get ready to host the 2022 IIFA Weekend & Awards in Abu Dhabi," host Khan said. "I’m so happy to be coming back with them, especially to a place I love."

Mohamed Abdalla Al Zaabi, chief executive of Miral, the developer of Yas Island, called it an "honour" to host the awards.

"As the Middle East’s largest state-of-the-art indoor entertainment venue, Etihad Arena presents an ideal setting for world-class events that attract international stars and audiences," he said.

Who will perform at the event?

Bollywood stars Ranveer Singh, Sara Ali Khan and Kartik Aaryan will perform at the IIFA Awards 2022 in Abu Dhabi along with a host of other celebrities. Photo: IIFA

As well as Singh, Dhawan and Panday, actors Kartik Aaryan, Sara Ali Khan, Divya Khosla Kumar and Nora Fatehi have also been confirmed as performers so far.

“Yas Island is like home to me, as I am the brand ambassador of such a spectacular destination. I am super-thrilled to be heading there to entertain people with a performance that will be super-special," Singh said. "It’s going to be epic.“

Aaryan, who hosted the 2018 awards, called it a "phenomenal experience".

"I’m elated to perform once again at the 22nd edition of the biggest celebration of Indian cinema. IIFA truly is an embodiment of a global phenomenon with its massive fan following and I’m looking forward to the IIFA Awards at Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, this year, he said.

Who is nominated for an award?

Sidharth Malhotra plays Indian war hero Vikram Bhatia in 'Shershaah'. Photo: Amazon Prime Video

Nominees for 12 of the most popular categories have been announced. War film Shershaah, starring Sidharth Malhotra and Kiara Advani, leads with a whopping 12 nominations, followed by Singh's cricket biopic 83, which has nine and Abhishek Bachchan's Ludo which has six.

Atrangi Re and Thappad follow close behind with five nods, while Mimi has four.

A full list of nominees is here.

How much do tickets cost?

Tickets to the IIFA Awards are already selling out, with the venue's Upper Tier seats priced at Dh110 and Dh220 no longer available. Lower Tier tickets from Dh330 to Dh1,350 are still available at etihadarena.ae.

Scroll through the gallery below for pictures from the red carpet of the IIFA Weekend & Awards 2019:

— This article was first published on December 21, 2021

Updated: April 21, 2022, 3:32 PM