Actress Alia Bhatt makes her acceptance speech after receiving the Best Actress award for “Udta Punjab” at IIFA Awards 2017 in New York, on July 15. (IANS photo)

NEW YORK—In a city that never sleeps, the Metlife Stadium came alive with the IIFA Awards celebration here on Saturday night, with Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt becoming proud winners of the Best Actor trophies for their remarkable work in "Udta Punjab."

Given that it came to a film which was mired in controversy with the censor board over its theme and content made the success sweeter for the stars – even Diljit Dosanjh walked away with the Best Debutante – Male Actor for his performance in the film.

All three of them were emotional about winning the award for a film which let mainstream performers take up something risky.

The Best Picture honor went to Sonam Kapoor starrer "Neerja," based on the real life story of Neerja Bhanot, an air hostess who lost her life while trying to save others on a hijacked flight at Karachi. Actor Jim Sarbh won the Best Performance in a Negative role for the movie.

Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury walked away with the Best Direction award for "Pink," a hard-hitting drama which put forth the message that when a woman says no, it is a no.

Actress Taapsee Pannu, who played a pivotal role in "Pink," was named the ‘Woman Of The Year,’ while music maestro A.R. Rahman was given a Special Award in recognition of his contribution to film music since 25 years at the event, which was largely attended by the NRI community here.

Rahman sang two lines from "Maa tujhe salaam" much to the delight of the audience on the final day of the 18th edition of International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Weekend and Awards, an annual celebration of Hindi cinema at a foreign location.

In the Best Supporting Actor category, Shabana Azmi and Anupam Kher were honored for 'Neerja" and "M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story" respectively, Varun Dhawan was lauded for his comic timing in "Dishoom," and Disha Patani was encouraged with an award for her debut movie "M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story."

The music category saw Pritam winning the Best Music Direction for "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil," and Amitabh Bhattacharya bagging the Best Lyrics accolade for "Channa mereya."

Among the singers, Kanika Kapoor's "Da da dase" and Tulsi Kumar "Soch na sake" shared the award in the female category, while Amit Mishra won it in the men's category.

As hosts, Karan Johar and Saif Ali Khan attempted to keep the humor alive, but beyond a point, the crowd wasn't very engaged and booed them in between.

The performances by Alia Bhatt, Katrina Kaif, Shahid Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Sushant Singh Rajput, Kriti Sanon and Salman Khan kept the pace of the event going.

"Raabta" actors Rajput and Sanon performed on retro tracks, while Dhawan paid tribute to his father David Dhawan by grooving to his chartbusters.

IIFA, a celebration of Hindi film and music, takes place every year in a new country. The idea is to spread the magic and promote Indian cinema.

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