| Vanisha Mittal (second from left) and Amit flanked by his parents Arun and Renu Bhatia in Paris on Saturday. (AFP)
June 20: Tonight, in the sumptuous surroundings of the Palace of Versailles, Lakshmi Mittal’s daughter, Vanisha, was due to become formally engaged to her fiancé, Amit Bhatia, at a “ring ceremony”.
Guests who have flown in from Britain, India and other countries also attended an opera, enjoyed a cocktail party, walked through the bedrooms of France’s kings and queens of old and the Galerie des Batailles (Gallery of Battles) before sitting down to a formal banquet.
Last night’s sangeet at the Jardin des Tuileries on the banks of the Seine was more of a family event, with even Mittal entering the spirit of the occasion and playing himself in an hour-long Bollywood script written by Javed Akhtar.
It may not have been artistically up to the level of Sholay but guests found the occasion “fun”.
The Mittals were preceded by the Bhatias who put on their own performance.
The Mittal clan enacted the love story of Vanisha, 23, and banker Amit, 25, “how they met, their little misunderstandings and how the problems were resolved as the couple realised they loved each other, really”.
Mittal and his wife, Usha, played themselves in the drama, which had music written especially for the production by Shankar Mahadevan and choreography by Farah Khan. Professional dancers were incorporated into the show to give the occasion greater polish. The amateur actors rehearsed in London for three weeks.
“With fees for the top Bollywood names, the whole thing would have cost at least £500,000,” estimated a source close to the event.
The roles of Amit and Vanisha were taken by Mittal’s son and daughter-in-law, Aditya and Megha.
The latter has assumed a prominent role in organising many of the events and took charge of putting together a hard-bound 14-page wedding invitation card, which guests have described as a “collector’s item”.
The card, which guests received in a box, has pictures of the happy couple entwined in elliptical frames.
Some of the pages carry romantic poems. One is by Shelley, another by Rumi, and a third set of verses is apparently by Megha Mittal herself.
Most guests have been indulgent enough to overlook the trifling spelling and grammatical errors in verse formation to appreciate the hitherto unnoticed literary depths in young Megha.
“Come to Paris on a summer day/ When everybody is jolly and gay,” begins one of her rhyming flights of literary fancy.
She introduces the mehndi ceremony, due to be held on Monday, with more poetry: “The hues of henna deep and rare/ Pink and orange should I wear'”
She soars higher than the Eiffel Tower for the Star Night due to be held tomorrow: “The stage is a commotion, the actors in jubilation/ Will it be Shahrukh, Preity or Hrithik Roshan'/So put on your shoes and practice (sic) your move/ The DJ is approved and will put you in the groove!”
To accompany Megha’s reflections, her father-in-law has commissioned the well-known watercolour artist Florine Asch, best known for her collection of paintings in My Italian Sketchbook.
She has done pretty pictures for the Mittal invitation card, which includes exotic images of fine orientals in turbans and damsels in saris standing against the background of either Versailles or Vaus le Vicomte, where the wedding will take place on June 22.
There are Indian men and men twirling round each other under chandeliers and even elephants, looking very much like Babar, have been manoeuvred into the invitation card.
Megha has a poem to sum up the mood of the marriage: “The couple is one/ Her heart is won/Light up the candles ten thousand and one/Let’s gather around and applaud/With fireworks up in the cloud.”
There is just a hint that the Mittals see themselves as Maharajahs on a par with the ancient royal houses of Rajasthan, which, in a way they are, except that the Maharajahs invited one and all. Mittal has caused bad blood by excluding many prominent members of the Indian community from his table.
For now, Megha brings to bear a sense of history: “From the chateau steeped in history/ We enter a world of Maharajahs and mystery/ A gilded palace from Bikaner brings/ A lavish feast fit for a king.”