Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez was one of many stars on the green carpet (Photo: AFP)
Director Abhishek Pathak's gritty remake of a Malayalam film took the top honour at the end of a four-hour ceremony of pumping dance routines that showcased the Hindi-language movie industry.
Best director went to Ranganathan Madhavan for "Rocketry: The Nambi Effect". Hrithik Roshan won best actor for his role in "Vikram Vedha" and Alia Bhatt took best actress for "Gangubai Kathiawadi".
"Brahmastra: Part One - Shiva" picked up a number of prizes including best supporting actress for Mouni Roy and best female playback singer for star vocalist Shreya Ghoshal.
The IIFA awards, intended to reach an international audience, were held for the second year running in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates where more than a third of the 10 million population is Indian.
The Hindi-language film industry was worth $2.5 billion in 2019. India also releases hundreds of films in its 21 other official languages, churning out about 1,600 each year total.
But Mumbai-based Bollywood, the world's most prolific producer of movies, has been mired in crisis since the pandemic with ticket sales remaining low since cinemas reopened.
The rise in streaming services, competition from other parts of India and demand for meatier fare than Bollywood's trademark song-and-dance routines have all contributed to the slump, experts say.
However, superstar Shah Rukh Khan's "Pathaan" smashed Indian box office records in January, in a positive sign for the industry.
Shiny gold shirt
Indian cinema also received a boost in March when viral dance hit "Naatu Naatu" won an Oscar for best song, a first for a film from the country.
"What does IIFA mean for (Indian) cinema? I think opening up to the global stage and also bringing us to the global stage as well, so it's exciting both ways," said actress Jacqueline Fernandez, wearing an Arab-inspired head covering.
Among the highlights, heart-throb Varun Dhawan, wearing a shiny gold shirt, rode onto the stage on a mini-dune buggy, and ceremony host Vicky Kaushal drew screams from the audience when he launched into a dance number.
Actor and eco-activist Dia Mirza reminded the crowd about pressing environmental concerns months before the UAE, one of the world's biggest oil producers, hosts the COP28 United Nations climate talks in November and December.
Veteran actor Kamal Haasan was awarded for his outstanding achievement in Indian cinema and Anil Kapoor won best supporting actor for his role in "Jugjugg Jeeyo".
"Darlings" took best original story, and best female debut was Khushali Kumar in "Dhokha: Round D Corner".
The IIFA show, one of a number of Indian awards ceremonies, has been held in several countries since its debut in London in 2000. Voting is done online by fans.