Director Ashutosh Gowariker's stunning love epic Jodhaa Akbar swept the "Bollywood Oscars" on Sunday, taking home awards for best picture, best director and best actor for lead man Hrithik Roshan.
The film, heavily fancied beforehand, traces the rise of the Mughal emperor Akbar The Great, a Muslim, and his love affair with his Hindu wife, played in the film by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.
"When I started this movie I was advised by all my friends not to make this film," Gowariker explained at the International Indian Film Academy (IIFA) Awards, being held in the southern Chinese territory of Macau.
But he said the film's massive popularity had "reinstated my faith that we do need a Hindu-Muslim alliance" in India.
Former Miss World Aishwarya Rai Bachchan picked up gongs for Star of the Decade (female) and Outstanding Achievement by an Indian in International Cinema.
An emotional Rai thanked "everyone who had contributed" to her career. "It is never a singular effort," she said, before turning her attention to her father, who recently has been battling cancer.
"My father is still here," she said, while thanking him for his "sacrifice and grace."
Meanwhile Rai's husband Abhishek won the award for Best Performance in a Comedy Role (Male).
He screamed for joy once on stage and—in reference to questions being raised in the tabloid press about his sexuality—yelled: "Well, I am gay tonight!"
Other winners were Asin and Farhan Akhtar for Debutant Star Female and Male respectively.
The ceremony at the vast Venetian Resort-Hotel was attended by 500 Bollywood luminaries and an 8,000-strong audience that had flown in from all over the world.
Organizers estimated that the awards in the southern Chinese territory would be watched by 500 million TV viewers worldwide.
"We can look back tonight on the way Indian cinema has grown over these years," said actor Anil Kapoor, star of the Oscar-winning hit "Slumdog Millionaire," which was set in the Indian city of Mumbai.
"It is a well-established fact that India produces the greatest number of films in the world today. Needless to say, Indians are crazy about cinema."
One of the first to greet fans on the night was veteran actor Kabir Bedi, who starred as the evil Gobina in the 1983 James Bond film "Octopussy."
"This night means the internationalization of the entire brand of Bollywood," he said. "Brand Bollywood has gone global and you can see that tonight—it epitomizes the best."
The extravaganza, now in its 10th year, is staged outside India every year in an effort to increase the international profile of Bollywood films. It features premieres, media sessions, trade forums, and a fashion show.
Previous locations have included Bangkok, Johannesburg and Amsterdam.
"What's surprising is that in Mumbai, people in Bollywood do not interact with each other because life there is so hectic. It's only here that we interact with each other," said Adarsh, who has attended almost all the IIFA awards events.
Sabbas Joseph, director of IIFA, told AFP that this year's awards marked a decade of achievement for Bollywood.
"What's exciting is that this is really a golden decade for Indian cinema," he said.
The triumph of "Slumdog," which grabbed eight awards at this year's Oscars, had been just one of the many examples of the industry's achievement in recent years, he stressed.
"We have taken our films to many different countries and introduced many different genres," he said.
The event is being held in the aftermath of a damaging row between producers and multiplex cinemas over how box office receipts are split, a dispute finally settled last week after a two-month stand-off.
But even before the row, India's $2.3-billion film industry was feeling the pinch from the global economic slowdown, reining in budgets and actors' fees as audience numbers dwindled.