Bollywood actress Alia Bhatt arrives at the 20th International Indian Film Academy Awards in Mumbai. Photo: AFP / Punit Paranjpe

Spy thriller Raazi dominated the Bollywood Oscars in a star-studded night in Mumbai.

The movie directed Meghna Gulzar, one of the rare female executives in Bollywood, won the best film award while Alia Bhatt was voted best actress.

Elsewhere, megastar Ranveer Singh won the best actor award for his role in the controversial Padmaavat, a historical action movie which enraged Hindu radicals but was a global success.

“The fact that you are all sitting here and watching us being honored means you all love cinema and that’s why we continue to do what we are doing,” Bhatt said. “It feels surreal to hold this IIFA award for Raazi and to be nominated alongside talented actors … who were my inspiration to become an actor.”

Raazi revolves around a Kashmiri spy who marries a Pakistani official so she can send back intelligence before the 1971 India-Pakistan war.

Bollywood star Alia Bhatt after receiving her best actress award for ‘Raazi.’ Photo: AFP / Indranil Mukherjee

The topic has become extremely sensitive since New Delhi’s decision in early August to revoke the autonomy of Indian-administered Kashmir, ramping up tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

In other awards, Andhadhun, a black comedy about a nearly blind piano player who witnesses a murder, won best director for Sriram Raghavan, as well as best screenplay and best story.

Aditi Rao Hydari won best supporting actress for her role in Padmaavat, which caused a storm as soon as filming started. But no mention of the controversies were made at the gala.

“It’s a miracle and a blessing I made it as an actor. To do what I love to do for a living is a gift,” Padmaavat star and best actor winner Singh said, praising his wife and co-star Deepika Padukone.

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Hindu hardliners, who complained that the story misrepresented its central figure Queen Padmavati, attacked the film set and staged protests which forced a delay to the film’s release. It only came out after changes ordered by India’s film censors.

Ishaan Khattar, who acted in Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi’s Beyond the Clouds, won best male newcomer while Sara Ali Khan took best female newcomer for her performance in Kedarnath.

It is the first time in 20 years that the awards have been held in India. They had previously taken place in key foreign markets for Bollywood, including the United States, Britain, Singapore and the Middle East.

But with the Indian film industry booming, this year the awards returned home to Mumbai.

Ranveer Singh after receiving the best actor award at the Bollywood Oscars. Photo: AFP / Indranil Mukherjee

Many of the top stars, such as Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif and Deepika Padukone, turned out in extravagant outfits.

Khan, Kaif, Sara Ali Khan and dance icon Madhuri Dixit performed a mix of their most popular songs, celebrating a bumper year for Bollywood.

Last year, there were nearly 1,800 titles released, making India the biggest film industry in the world in terms of movies made.

Revenues jumped 12.2% in 2018, which included not only Bollywood movies but also regional titles, according to a March report by Ernst & Young or EY.

The IIFA ceremony sets off India’s movie season that culminates with the National Film Awards, which has a smaller global audience but is considered more prestigious.

– reporting AFP

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