The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Marriage of high kicks & high notes

Guests to the wedding of Lakshmi Mittal’s daughter Vanisha were entertained by a performance of Moulin Rouge-style high kicking Cancan girls in the palace of Versailles last night.

Just in case people thought Mittal was merely a Calcutta boy-turned-rich NRI, the Opera House in Versailles also heard the music of three of Mittal’s favourite composers. Apart from Verdi, they included Leo Delibes (1836-1891), a French composer of fine operas, and Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), best known for his church music. A few Indians present initially confused Lully with Bollywood distributor (Kishore) Lulla, a partner with Mittal in the not entirely successful B4U venture to broadcast Hindi films on a television network.

“The exchange of rings between Vanisha and her fiancé, Amit Bhatia, went off smoothly as guests gathered in the courtyard,” said one source. “Dinner was served in the Galerie des Batailles. Afterwards, Vanisha and Amit and the younger guests went off to the disco.”

This afternoon, the mehndi ceremony was held at a Paris hotel, the Bristol. “It’s like a Bombay hotel with so many Indians milling around and music from Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge playing in the background,” remarked one visitor.

The guests are being put up at Mittal’s expense at the Inter-Continental, though some, who have been invited for six days, are annoyed at being given free accommodation for only two.

One guest who was forced to find a hotel where he had to stay at his own expense boycotted the festivities yesterday in protest at not being put up at the Inter-Continental for a longer period.

“It’s a policy of divide and rule,” he muttered ungratefully.

Tonight, high Indian culture was due to be represented before the French at the Bollywood Star Night at a venue called St Cloud.

In the immortal verse of Megha Mittal, the steel tycoon’s daughter-in-law: The wind and willows whisper out loud/ It’s “starry” night over at St Cloud./ The Eiffel tower shimmers on the right/ But its Summer Solstice, the sun stays out till night.

To her rhetorical question, “Will it be Shahrukh, Preity or Hrithik Roshan',” guests were today beginning to get the idea that of the three, only Shah Rukh will turn up. There has been no sign of Preity Zinta, an actor whose demands may have stretched even Mittal’s wallet, or Hrithik. There was a rumour at one stage that Aishwarya Rai may be persuaded to come and there was a suggestion today that the “Queen of Bollywood” is being lined up for a surprise appearance either today or tomorrow.

One source said Rani Mukherjee would step in, as would Saif Ali Khan, who happened to be in Paris and whom Mittal has claimed as a “friend”.

The venue for the star night has been prettily done with twinkling lights covering the roof of a shamiana. Inside, there will be room for a thousand guests.

If Mittal had hoped to get some PR mileage by pitching the wedding in France, the results so far have been mixed. He has sought, in the style of Hollywood moguls, to control the images that are being released through a news agency.

The press has been excluded but the photographs, including group pictures of relatives, have not excited the British media. Not to put too fine a point, the wedding has so far proved in media terms at least to be a damp squib and been largely ignored. “He is a proud father and he wants to do the best for his daughter,” said a friend. “He wants it to be a happy occasion for Vanisha.”

The big day, when the wedding will take place at an idyllic French chateau, is tomorrow.

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