The Ambani wedding circus: how many more 'pre'-s will we suffer?

The constantly incoming pre-wedding bashes of Anant Ambani and Radhika Merchant have us all saying, 'please just get married already'

From left: Shloka Mehta, Rihanna, Radhika Merchant and Isha Ambani at Jamnagar
From left: Shloka Mehta, Rihanna, Radhika Merchant and Isha Ambani at Jamnagar

Akanksha Biradar

The world has known for a while that Radhika Merchant and Anant Ambani will tie the knot on 12 July. But before that final blessed moment arrives, the world will also have to navigate a seemingly endless series of 'pre-weddings', forcing us to know every nitty-gritty of the impending nuptials, whether we wish to or not.

We know the humble Jamnagar airport in Gujarat was hastily turned into an 'international airport' for 10 days for the Ambani-Merchant families to be able to welcome global guests such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Ivanka Trump and several former prime ministers to a three-day pre-wedding bash starting 1 March. The airport passenger building was expanded and toilets renovated to facilitate 140 aircraft movements instead of the usual six.

We know Rihanna, who has fans begging for a new album, performed at the Jamnagar bash and danced to Zingaat with Jhanvi Kapoor. And this was a good time to remind ourselves that the global pop superstar is quite an Ambani regular, having performed at Isha Ambani and Anand Piramal's wedding too.

The Khan trinity — Shah Rukh, Salman and Aamir — also danced on stage together at Jamnagar. The Ambanis went all out, I mean, imagine looking back and thinking, "Ah yes, the time the who's who danced on our request."

All of this came at a reported cost of $150 million (over Rs 1,250 crore), but no one was really counting. Their wealth, their choice, seemed to be the dominant refrain. Well, with Reliance-Jio hiking its mobile services tariff recently, perhaps some users will now begin to count.

Of course, this wasn't the only 'pre-wedding bash'. How could it be? There was the four-day extravagant cruise from Palermo in Italy to the south of France and back with stops in Rome, Portofino, Genoa (all in Italy) and Cannes (France). 

Several Bollywood stars, sports celebrities, and business tycoons were reported to be part of the luxurious cruise party which began on 29 May and ended on 1 June. More inevitably viral videos showed famous American band Backstreet Boys and British pop diva Katy Perry performing for guests on the cruise in Italy, despite a reportedly strict 'no phones on board' policy. Not clear who was in charge of enforcing the policy, though.

Perhaps not as many of us know that residents and businesses in Italy's Portofino and Genoa were left furious as the cities shut down and people were kept awake by rowdy cruise guests. Moreover, access to the entire bay was blocked, preventing residents and other tourists from visiting.

The picturesque village is no stranger to celebrity weddings — among them Australian singer Sia and reality TV star Kourtney Kardashian — but never before was it shut down in this manner, another Ambani first. Money can't buy happiness? Perhaps, but for the Ambanis, it has clearly bought them a not-so-solid international reputation.

Speaking of shutdowns, Mumbai Traffic Police has issued notice to the good citizens of Mumbai that traffic restrictions will be put in place to ensure smooth traffic flow and minimal inconvenience to commuters in honour of an upcoming "public event", said event essentially being a family wedding. Thankfully for the Ambanis, Mumbaikars have not followed in the footsteps of Portofino or Genoa.

That is not to say the seemingly endless festivities have not inspired the most hilarious of desi memes. As one netizen put it, maybe the couple is just getting to know each other.

Even the family's apparent public service has drawn the wrong kind of attention. A mass wedding for 50 underprivileged couples was held at Reliance Corporate Park in Navi Mumbai, with nearly 800 guests, including family members of the couples, local social workers, and community representatives.

The Ambani family began the event with traditional fervour and an apparently profound message of service to humanity, with the invite reading, “Nita and Mukesh Ambani are contributing towards this noble cause and will also grace the occasion along with family. We would be delighted if you could join us in witnessing this celebration of love."

The "poor couples" were handed gold ornaments including mangalsutra, wedding rings, nose rings, and silver ornaments such as toe rings and anklets. The lucky couples also received groceries and household items to keep them going for a year, including 36 essential items (we haven't yet found details of what these were), utensils, and appliances such as a gas stove, mixer, fan, mattresses, and pillows. Oh and each bride was presented a cheque of Rs 1.01 lakh as streedhan.

How did the world know all this in aid of the 'noble cause'? Er...because it was told!

Humble brag done, the family returned to the principal business of still more pre-wedding bashes. Singer-songwriter Justin Bieber, now decidedly a Western reject, performed at the sangeet ceremony in Mumbai on 5 July. The event was held at the not-at-all grandiosely named Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre, and drew the invariable star-studded crowd. And of course, the world was treated to every tidbit of information.

We were also treated to a clip of the mysteriously omnipresent Orry performing the garba with Radhika, whose juvenile Bharatnatyam arangetram previously made our eyes pop. Oh and not to forget yet another viral video of the entire Ambani family dancing yet again to yet another Bollywood number.

If, like us, you're among those rapidly tiring of headlines like: 'Anant-Radhika wedding, all you need to know', join us in the chorus of, 'please, just get married already and stop shoving pre-pre-pre-pre-weddings down our throats!'

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