| Priya and Vikram: VIP blessing
London, Jan. 22: For what is being billed as the most glamorous NRI wedding since the '30-million Laxmi Mittal extravaganza in France in the summer of 2004, dozens of international celebrities, headed by former US President Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea, have sent their acceptances for the Chatwal marriage next month.
The New York-based hotel magnate Sant Singh Chatwal, whose actor son Vikram is marrying the Delhi model Priya Sachdev, told The Telegraph that he was confident Clinton’s presence would further strengthen Indo-American relations ahead of President George W. Bush’s visit to India in March.
“Clinton has been to India five times,” said Chatwal, a trustee of the charitable fund set up by the former President. “He’s a good friend of India.”
The former President, who first came to India in March 2000, would not be able to stay for more than a day this time.
Chelsea, however, is expected to enjoy the entire programme, starting with parties in Mumbai on February 11, 12 and 13, more parties in Udaipur on February 14 and 15 ' palace hotels Shiv Niwas, Devigarh Fort and Jag Mandir in the middle of Lake Picchola have been hired ' and the actual barat and wedding in Delhi on February 17, 18 and 19.
The foreign guests, “mostly Vikram’s friends”, are from showbiz, films, music, modelling and generally folk who get into the gossip columns.
Those who have said they will come include supermodel Naomi Campbell, who has an apartment in Trump Tower in New York and is “both Vikram’s friend and neighbour”. She has also done a small film in New York with Vikram and been with him to parties, which have also been attended by Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan (they, too, have been asked to the wedding).
Those who are coming from America include Reza Pahlavi, the eldest son of the late Shah of Iran and the “guru” Deepak Chopra. The rap artist, Diddy (previously known as P Diddy and, before that, as Sean Combs, Puffy and Puff Daddy), may come as Vikram has been to his birthday party held in Morocco. But he is said to have a “very busy schedule”.
From Britain, the Chatwals are expecting to see Victoria Aitken, daughter of former Tory MP Jonathan Aitken, and her stepsister, Petrina Khashoggi.
Robert Hanson, son of the late industrialist, Lord Hanson, has also said yes, as has the heir of the Green Shields stamps empire, Tim Jeffries, who was once married to Koo Stark, a former girlfriend of Prince Andrew.
While Lakshmi Mittal had to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds to secure the services of Shahrukh and the singer Kylie Minogue, the Chatwal guests are coming as “friends”.
Chatwal plays down any notion of competition. “Lakshmi Mittal is coming with his wife, Usha, his son, Aditya, and daughter-in-law (Megha). He is the biggest steel maker in the world. We are very proud of him.”
Among the Hindujas, Gopi has RSVP-ed yes.
From the Indian side, he is hoping Manmohan Singh, whom he describes as “a godsend to India” ' “I’ve known him for many years” ' will come, along with several members of the cabinet.
Chatwal said he had been planning the wedding for a year and that he was making an effort to show off India to his important visitors from all over the world.
“It is a typical, traditional Indian wedding but I want to do something new, something different,” he explained. “I have been living 35 years outside. Now I want to show what it means to be Indian, what India is. It’s a major power in the world. I want people to see its economic growth, its political system.”
He and Priya’s family want people to have fun, too, which is why the theme parties include events such as “Evening of Mujra”, “Sheesha”, and “Fantasia”, a masked ball, in Udaipur.
In Delhi, the wedding will be more Punjabi ' mehndi at a Delhi farm, barat, Jaimala (“no whites, only colours”), and “Anand Karij”, the wedding ceremony, concluding with a black tie reception for, at least, 1,000 people at the Maurya Sheraton.
Even the richest Americans will not have experienced anything like this, for there are separate and colourful invitation cards (and security passes) for each event.
He wants guests to leave India, after a quick trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal.
Since this is an Indian wedding, desi designers ' the ubiquitous Tarun Tahiliani and Rohit Bal, among them ' will be busy. But Priya’s wedding day trousseau will include outfits designed by Roberto Cavalli, Jean Paul Gaultier and Valentino.
Vikram, 34, who works for his father’s Hampshire Hotels Resorts in America, especially on the “boutique” side aimed at “hip and cool” 20 and 30-somethings, said he wanted to split his career between hotel management and acting.
He got the lead role in One Dollar Curry ' a tale of how a poor Sikh makes it in Paris ' when “my cousin, (cricketer) Bishen Singh Bedi, introduced me to (director) Vijay Singh”.
He met his fianc'e through Queenie Dhody, the Mumbai-based former Miss India who has been called “a major player on the city’s social scene”.
“Priya and I have invited people to our wedding, not because they are celebrities, but because they are friends,” Vikram pointed out. “We want it to be intimate.”
However, the moment may be shared with others, since Tatler, the British glossy, has been granted exclusive access to cover the wedding.