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AA union and SS break
- To seven rounds, in seven buses

Mumbai, April 20: In the end, the big Bollywood wedding lived up to the billing, upstaging Mumbai’s other obsession, bat and ball.

At least 500 guests, instead of the 25-30 the Bachchans had suggested, watched Aishwarya Rai become Mrs Abhishek Bachchan, with all the big names on show unlike the squad to Bangladesh announced a few miles away.

On a day cricket took a back seat in the public mind space, Sachin Tendulkar, missing from the one-day team list, was at hand in a white sherwani to see a nation of film lovers’ prateeksha end at the shubh mahurat around 6.30 pm.

As many as 11 pandits are believed to have conducted the marriage according to rituals that ranged from the Bant — Ash’s community — to the Bengali, her mother-in-law Jaya’s. Also thrown in were a few north Indian practices, such as the all-important saat phere.

Not only did all the 300-odd sangeet guests throng the Prateeksha lawns, so did the scores invited just to the wedding, among them Calcutta girls Raima and Riya Sen.

With Prateeksha turned into the bride’s house, the Bachchan baraati included the majority of the guests.

Those who climbed out of the seven huge Volvo buses included Amitabh’s friends Anil Ambani, Amar Singh and Yash Chopra, and Chhota B’s buddies Karan Johar, Uday Chopra, Rohan Sippy and Sikandar Kher. Rituparno Ghosh and Ram Gopal Varma were there, so were Sanjay Dutt, Suniel Shetty and Preity Zinta.

Outside, traffic was tied up in a knot on Juhu’s streets, through which Abhishek, balle-balleing on horseback, and the Volvos had made their way from Jalsa to Prateeksha.

Through the day, in front of Jalsa, small crowds had been flitting in and out with the police handling the traffic smoothly. But as the clock struck five and the seven buses lined up outside the bungalow, Mumbai’s happening suburbia came to a halt.

One side of the 1.5-km stretch from Jalsa to Prateeksha had been blocked off and made out of bounds for traffic since 4.30 pm. But as the Jalsa gates flung open to show Abhishek on horseback with nephew Agastya, hundreds poured onto the side of the road that was open to traffic.

As the 1,000-strong police team tried to keep the crowds from crossing over to the Bachchan side of the road, the stretch became unmanageable.

For the next 45 minutes, it was a chase-the-buses contest as everyone followed the Volvos. But near the wedding venue, another crowd was waiting to “receive” the baraati.

As the sea of people in front of the fleet approached the other behind it, there was a near-stampede situation with police sticks flying in a desperate effort to push the crowds off the street.

But they kept coming back. One moment the police would create some space, the next they would have filled up again.

Yards from the action on the pitch, the stands were full, too. People were perched on trees, traffic signals, stationary vans and every vantage point in between. No rooftop or balcony around Prateeksha was empty.

To the old-timers, the occasion harked back to June 23, 1973, when Amitabh had married Jaya at the Malabar Hill residence of a relative.

Just as Amitabh had waited till he had delivered his first hit with Zanjeer, sources said, one reason Abhishek had delayed his wedding was that he wanted a big, solo hit under his belt. The AbAsh wedding was finalised after Guru’s sparkling first weekend.

The wedding was a short affair, but the guests stayed back for more rounds of celebration and the big dinner. Tendulkar, who had arrived at 6.15 pm with wife Anjali, left Prateeksha around 9.40 pm.

A little irritant outside the gates was quickly tackled. Haya Rizvi alias Jahnavi Kapoor, a small-time model, appeared before Prateeksha around midnight to claim she was married to Abhishek.

Last night, her “suicide bid” before the bungalow had created a stir. Tonight, she said: “I want to see my husband’s marriage.”

She wasn’t allowed in and around 12.20, was sent back home by car.

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