| Aishwarya Rai, Rani Mukherjee
Mumbai, Nov. 4: Bollywood’s reigning queens gave Prince Charles the miss.
Aishwarya Rai and Rani Mukherjee skipped the mahurat shot of The Rising — a film on the sepoy mutiny where they co-star with Aamir Khan — which had the heir to the British throne playing clapper boy.
“The Rising, Take One,” said Charles, a tad awkwardly, leaving the floor to a nervous Aamir. Playing Mangal Pandey of the long, curly locks and imposing moustache, the star appeared fidgety while preening for the shot at Regal Room at the Oberoi.
The prince, who had earlier in the day refused to don a Gandhi cap gifted by the dabbawallas (tiffin carriers), didn’t mind sounding the clapperboard for the film on the first War of Independence.
Charles seemed to have a ball with the Bollywood set minus the leading ladies. Aishwarya could not make it because “there were rains in Delhi last night and the set where she was shooting for Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice got washed out”. Rani arrived late, after the prince had left, because a family member had met with an accident.
But Aamir admitted he was nervous and said he was surprised by the prince’s knowledge about Mangal Pandey. “I am so happy he came here,’’ he gushed.
Ketan Mehta, the director of the Indo-British joint production, excitedly explained to Charles the story of The Rising.
Filmmaker Manmohan Shetty shook hands animatedly and Yash Chopra smiled his broadest smile. Music genius A.R. Rahman, who is called the Mozart of Madras in London, looked happy but far less ruffled than the rest. Charles was seen in deep conversation with the composer.
Earlier in the day, the prince had met the dabbawallas at Churchgate station, not far from Oberoi. Mahavir Jadhav — one of the dabbawallas responsible for reaching home-cooked food to around 200,000 Mumbai officegoers — said it was his “good fortune” to meet Charles.
“We gave a demonstration on how we reach food to about two lakh people each day and never falter,” said Raghunath Medge. “He was surprised how it all works out without a hitch,” he added, eyes twinkling.
Films or food, it was the “business of Bombay” that seemed to fascinate Charles. At a crowded business reception — Rahul Bajaj, Ratan Tata, Hindustan Lever chairman M.S. Banga, ICICI joint managing director Lalita Gupte, Wockhardt chairman Habil Khorakiwala, HSBC India chief Niall Booker and his Standard Chartered Bank counterpart Chris Low were among those present — the prince was effusive about Mumbai and its professionalism.
In a note many back home in Britain would find ironical, especially after Diana’s butler Paul Burrell’s disclosures, Charles said: “In India, one realises the importance given to relationships and family life. This comes down from generation to generation. It is so important.”