Like a mother hen,” clucked Hema Malini, drenched happily in sweat, as she stood like a rock on stage and saw her daughter Esha have an unstinted grand wedding. Dripping in expensive Kanjeevarams (Rs 1.5 lakh per sari, whispered designer Neeta Lulla, and Esha’s bridal attire was made out of three!), Hema had arranged a lavish south Indian Iyengar wedding inside the Iskcon temple.
The question asked by many was, did dad Dharam turn up on Friday morning and participate in the ceremony? Yes, he did. He was there early morning to receive the baraat The only one to be dressed in civvies, in black trousers and white shirt in a sea of embroidered finery, Dharam took part in the wedding ceremony like a dad should, right down to the part where the bride sits in her father’s lap. Both Esha and Dharam were mighty amused by it and the bride planted a quick kiss on his forehead.
The very beautifully planned ceremony had close circuit screens all over with pure veggie snacks and juices going around. Hema had arranged an authentic group of south Indian singers to chorus all the traditional songs, and little booklets were distributed to every guest explaining what each ceremony was all about. One of the ceremonies required the presence of the bride’s brother. With Sunny and Bobby out of town, Abhay Deol dimpled and stepped in to do all that a brother had to do for his sis.
With prominent names like Subrata Roy (Sahara), Subhash Chandra (Zee), Vyjayanthimala (who flew in from Chennai) and Vinod-Kavita Khanna gracing the wedding ceremony, there was a stir when Kokilaben and Neeta Ambani walked in. Another little sensation was witnessed when Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan came in, surprisingly, with a jumbo size gift for the couple, carried by a staffer, of course. Er, a gift that size should ideally have been sent to Esha’s house especially when the invitation explicitly said, Blessings Only Please. Amitabh hugged Sholay buddy Dharam, greeted Hema warmly and gave avuncular blessings to Esha, while Abhishek touched Dharam’s feet.
After a grand south Indian style wedding topped with a Hare Rama Hare Krishna lunch, every guest was gifted a large silk pouch with south Indian wedding specialities — a large, wheel-like chakli (murukku in Tamil), a sweet made with jaggery and instead of the usual laddoo, there was a packet of Mysore pak plus haldi-kum kum, a coconut and betel leaves. Hema had also packed in some sandalwood agarbattis and Iskcon booklets on Living The Divine Married Life and Hindu Wedding Rituals.
It was the dream wedding that Hema desired for Esha and she pulled it off, practically single-handedly. Hema had even gone down South and shopped for Kanjeevaram saris, gifting saris to all her close associates like Neeta Lulla who did the clothes and Neeru who organises her dance performances.
It was Esha’s special week but Hema’s show all the way. On Monday night, at the sangeet too, she held fort (Dharam came in for such a brief moment that few even saw him) and did a waltz on stage with Esha, mom and daughter sharing a warm moment together. The one actor spotted right through the sangeet was Band Bajaa Baraat hero Ranveer Singh, a Sindhi like Esha’s bridegroom Bharat Takhtani. Turned out that Ranveer and Bharat went to the same school and the actor knew Ahana Deol since she was 14. “So it’s like family for me,” he explained his enthusiastic participation.
If Ranveer was missing from the wedding itself, it was because he was back to shooting Lootera, which got held up when his back packed up in April-May. “They are shooting non-stop all day and not getting even a little break,” explained Punam Sinha since her daughter Sonakshi Sinha co-stars in Lootera. “That’s why Sona hasn’t been able to attend any of the ceremonies. But she will be there with her father at the reception,” she continued. Punam looked ecstatic in onion pink and happily accepted all the compliments that came her way for Sonakshi’s Rowdy Rathore success. “Your daughter is just fantastic,” said an enthusiastic Kavita Khanna. “In all that rowdy happening, she was still so compelling, you had to watch her.”
Kavita and Vinod Khanna’s own son Sakshi is due to turn actor very soon. Meanwhile, he’s learning the ropes by being an assistant director to Milan Luthria on the sequel to Once Upon A Time In Mumbaai. That should bring Sakshi Khanna closer to Sonakshi as she has been signed by Ekta Kapoor for a role opposite Imran Khan in the film.
PS: There was a Jat touch at the mehndi ceremony with a rambunctious dhol and a singer who kept requesting kudi di ma to come and do a step. Hema Malini ended up doing the bhangra all afternoon.
Bharathi S. Pradhan is editor, The Film Street Journal