PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 January, 2011, 12:00am

After a two-year hiatus, the Zee Cine Awards - Bollywood's equivalent of the Oscars - returned with a bang with A-list celebrities, such as Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, attending and performing dance numbers from their films for the gala ceremony.

Boasting a four-hour ceremony this year, the awards - which were held nine days ago at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore - had two categories: the popular choice and the jury choice, and this year the two diverged markedly. The jury awarded best film to Udaan, which also picked up the best director award for Vikramaditya Motwane. The small film about the coming-of-age of a young boy was officially selected to compete in the Un Certain Regard category at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. Hrithik Roshan and Rai Bachchan won best actor and actress, respectively, for their performances in Guzaarish, a touching romantic drama about a quadriplegic seeking euthanasia.

But in the popular vote component, five million fans cast their ballot and the best film nod went to the action-packed Dabangg - the highest-grossing Bollywood film of 2010. It bagged nine prizes, including best debut director for Abhinav Kashyap, best female debut for Sonakshi Sinha and best music for Sajid-Wajid and Lalit Pandit.

My Name is Khan, a sentimental movie set in the US about a Muslim man with Asperger's syndrome, whose life takes an unexpected turn after the terrorist attacks of September 11, garnered best actor (popular choice) for Shah Rukh Khan and best director (popular choice) for Karan Johar. The best actress gong (popular choice) went to Vidya Balan for her role in Ishq Kiya, in which she plays a widow who is romanced by two con-men.

Accepting the award, the actress quipped: 'If I'd known that swearing, shooting a gun and having an affair with two men would get me an award, I would have done it five years ago.'

First launched in 1998, the Zee Cine Awards have established themselves as the most prestigious awards for the Indian cinema industry. The organisers have grown as well: today, Zee Entertainment is now one of India's largest entertainment conglomerates and a prominent producer of Hindi-language programmes.

The Zee Cine awards were initially held in Mumbai, the heart of Bollywood, and the ceremony went international in 2004, when it was held in Dubai.

'Our viewership is spanning 167 countries, including the Middle East and Asia, and we have well over 500 million viewers, so we wanted to bring our events closer to our audience,' said Puneet Goenka, CEO of Zee Entertainment Enterprises. Since then, the ceremony has been held in Mauritius, Malaysia and London (twice). The event was not held in 2008 and 2009 'purely for economic reasons', Goenka said.

'Bollywood went through its own turmoil. The cost of filmmaking went up extensively and revenue streams from international business, in particular, came down. But I think things are back to normal, and the market is bound to grow,' he said.

The star-studded event treated an 8,000-strong audience, who had paid up to HK$6,000 for a ticket, to lots of glitz and glamour with elaborate sets, energetic dance performances and Bollywood stars such as Khan, Rai Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and Arjun Rampal singing songs from their movies.

Priyanka Chopra introduced each best film nominee by dressing up and getting into the character of someone from that particular movie.

When asked where next year's Zee Awards would be held, Goenka hinted it could take place in yet another venue owned by the Sands Corporation - which means either Las Vegas or Macau.