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Made in Rajasthan, unmade elsewhere

Katy Perry and Russell Brand and Arun Nayar and Elizabeth Hurley during happier times

London, Jan. 1: Alas, a Rajasthani-style Indian celebrity wedding with all the trimmings has not done much for British comedian Russell Brand, 36, and American singer Katy Perry, 27, who announced on Friday they are to split after only 14 months of marriage.

A solemn looking Brand, photographed without his wedding ring in London, said in a statement: “Sadly, Katy and I are ending our marriage. I’ll always adore her and I know we’ll remain friends.”

His divorce petition has been filed in Los Angeles.

Perry, who is in America, has yet to comment.

The celebrity couple have fast-tracked in two years what most normal people take a lifetime to achieve — from hello to dating to lovers to engaged couple to marriage to divorce to “friends”.

It will be recalled that Elizabeth Hurley chose Umaid Bhavan and Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur for her ultimately unsuccessful marriage to Arun Nayar in March 2007.

Similarly, Perry and Brand got engaged in Rambagh Palace in Jaipur on December 2010 and picked £600-a-night luxury tents and a mandap pitched in the wooded Aman-i-Khas resort of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve for their “Hindu-style wedding” in October last year.

Brand, a serial lothario who has a troubled past as a “drug and sex addict”, was probably being entirely serious when he became a vegetarian years ago, sought solutions in the Hare Krishna movement, touched the feet of his in-laws, painted his hands with henna and recruited a pandit to marry him to Perry as the couple went round the holy fire seven times and muttered Sanskrit slokas, which neither probably understood.

Lord Ganesh, to whom Brand also paid obeisance before his marriage ceremony, appears not to have been impressed. It all ended on Friday with a petition citing “irreconcilable differences” filed by Brand in the prosaic surroundings of the Los Angeles Superior Court against Perry under her full name of Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson.

For some weeks there have been persistent reports that their marriage was in trouble. The couple, who first met in September 2009 at an MTV video music awards function, were apart at Christmas, Brand on the beach in Cornwall and Perry swimming in Hawaii.

At one level, this is just another celebrity marriage that has done well to have lasted as long as 14 months. Perry is clearly a talented singer, songwriter and actress, who rose to fame in 2008 with the release of her second single I Kissed a Girl, which topped the international charts. Her first mainstream studio album, One of the Boys, followed later that year and also sold well.

Her second studio album, Teenage Dream, was released in August 2010 and reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The album included the Billboard chart-toppers California Gurl, Teenage Dream, Firework, E.T. and Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.), and the top five hit The One That Got Away.

Brand, who was not in quite the same league in show business as his wife, may now feel Perry is the one who has got away. On December 15, 2011, she was elected “Artist of the Year” by MTV.

Brand made a name in the UK with risqué jokes on television. He has been in a few minor films. He has fronted a TV programme called Big Brother’s Big Mouth, which discussed the day-to-day events on the reality show, Big Brother.

To British audiences he is best known for a prank call live on BBC radio on October 18, 2008, to well-known actor Andrew Sachs in which he left a message saying he had slept with the latter’s granddaughter, Georgina Baillie (which, it was later confirmed by a shocked Georgina, he had). Brand, co-host of the show, was forced to resign. Jonathan Ross, the other co-host, has also left the BBC.

From India’s point of view, “wedding tourism” has becoming increasingly popular for overseas Indians who return to Calcutta or Mumbai or Delhi or wherever their relatives live for a week of festivities.

Sometimes bride and groom are both Indian; quite often one is British or American or a foreigner from another country — and these occasions are invariably happy affairs full of fun both for Indians and the non-Indians.

But India’s ministry of tourism has also been encouraging the phenomenon of the celebrity wedding as these events are seen to promote tourist destinations, such as Rajasthan.

One overseas reporter wrote just before the Brand-Perry wedding that “Rajasthan has become a popular destination for celebrities…. Madonna and then-husband Guy Ritchie toured Rajasthan in an attempt to save their marriage. The state’s famous forts and Maharaja palaces, offering privacy and opulent luxury, has made it popular with many of the world’s biggest stars. Julia Roberts and Angelina Jolie both took breaks in Rajasthan while filming in India. Mick Jagger is a regular visitor and patron of the annual Rajasthan International Folk Festival. Richard Gere regularly holidays in the desert state and Nicole Kidman stayed at Udaipur’s exotic Lake Palace — also used as the setting for James Bond film Octopussy.”

Indian celebrity weddings are probably good for tourism. But when touting for business, India’s tourism ministry should perhaps include a health warning and a loyalty card: “This Hindu wedding is guaranteed for 12 months. But returning brides/ grooms are eligible for a discount: 33 per cent after one year; 20 per cent after two....”