Why I am not happy that the celebrity wedding wave has returned to India
For starters, spare some air for us, will you?
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At the onset, let me just say that celebrities choosing India as their wedding destination is not new. The West has always felt a strange pull towards India and all things oriental the country offers since time immemorial. Agreed, that’s led to several invasions and loots — but in the scope of this piece, we’re not flashbacking that far into the past.
When Elizabeth Hurley and Arun Nayar picked Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, as their wedding destination in 2007, Priyanka Chopra probably just had dreams of world domination, which have realised in the last decade. About three years after Elizabeth and Arun, Katy Perry and Russell Brand (2010) shunned the royal side to India and embraced the wilderness when they picked the unusual Ranthambhore tiger sanctuary, rather the resort outside that, as their wedding destination.
Since then, Hollywood celebrities just never stop coming down to the subcontinent.
Add to that the Bollywood tadka, the colours, the band baaja, the fireworks, and you have a heady concoction of what the West perceives (and we’d happily milk) as the definition of 'Indianness' that they just cannot resist.
Elizabeth did in 2007 what Priyanka did in 2018. #justsaying. (Source: Twitter)
If the headache-inducing wedding sagas we’re subjected to in Karan Johar and Yashraj films were not enough, the Western media would serve us the same old wine in new bottles.
So, when Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma flew off to sunny Tuscany for their very Punjabi wedding, I was glad.
Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh followed suit and ditched Dal for Como. Much appreciated.
But then, just when I thought the weddings, and thereby, the madness has migrated to Italy, Priyanka Chopra serenaded back to Rajasthan. She didn’t come alone — Isha Ambani is next. That the Ambanis were spotted at Peecee and Nick’s wedding in Umaid Bhawan was probably not so much because they were invited, but because they had come down for a recce and ultimately settled for Udaipur.
Now, the question is, why am I particularly upset with this reorientation of celebrity weddings? Here’s why...
Something something picture, something something thousand words! (Source: DailyO)
You HAVE all the money in the world to build a mandap on the moon if you like, buy yourself a resort in Tuscany if they’re unwilling to serve you Palak Paneer Pizza, and buy a cruise or heck, an entire airline to move the baarat around. Please, please leave India for people like us who do not have the money, or even enough leaves, for a year-ender Goa trip, let alone an Italian wedding!
Then there’s the pollution.
With Priyanka’s fourth-of-July-esque rounds of firework, the sheer hypocrisy of endorsing a firecracker-free Diwali was staring us in the face. If the torchbearers of social consciousness are going to light firecrackers with the very same torch, how can we possibly awake a blissfully unaware nation into awareness?
Who wants to contribute to air pollution? (Source: Instagram)
To put it in simpler terms, what the chocolate fudge were you thinking, Priyanka?
What’s worse is that PeeCee’s guests actually loved the show. Of course they do, as long as it’s our lungs sucking up the smog.
Air pollution is not the only kind of pollution these celebrity weddings bring to India. They cause sensibility pollution, too. What if wedding planners are now expected to organise cricket matches along with sangeet? What’s next, an IPL team for dahej?
Umm... isn't that exactly what you did? (Source: Twitter)
And then comes the problem that I find particularly problematic — how the very concept of the ‘Great Indian Wedding’ these weddings endorse is warped.
I have seen the pictures of the Priyanka Chopra-Nick Jonas wedding in Umaid Bhawan, and they are gorgeous. But, it was just a great Punjabi wedding, that’s all. Isha Ambani’s will be no different, of course with Gujarati flavours. And that’s fine as long as you, and the world at large, doesn’t assume that all weddings in India look like this.
You see, there’s a world — quite literally — outside North India, and without falling into ‘religion’ trappings, let’s just say that the weddings outside of North India look very different from the weddings inside of North India.
A Bengali biye will have the bride dawn a Banarasi sari, preferably in red, while the groom will steer clear of Sherwanis and ghodis, and embrace a white helmet that will be of little use during future marital conflicts. A Maharashtrian wedding demands about five to seven costume changes for the bride. Oh, the stress of helping your friend into her next change while the ‘mahurat’ goes fleeting by! The Tilak before a Bihari wedding is basically an official dowry ceremony where the bride’s family lays down gifts for the groom. Note that this isn’t an exchange, like ‘tatva’ in Bengalis. The actual wedding, however, has the ghodis and the baarat, and the whole nine yards of a typical shaadi.
For in my dreams, I need no Visa. (Source: DailyO)
So if you, the rich and famous, are going to endorse a Bollywoodised dream-like wedding in all its grandness, that is clearly so far removed from reality, both in essence and aesthetics, keep it miles out of our reach so we don’t so much as feel tempted to replicate it. Like the romantic dream sequence in (almost) every Hindi film shot in snowy Switzerland. When you wake up from that dream, you always find yourself in suburban Mumbai — stuffy, sweaty, stifling, yet beautifully chaotic.