//India gripped by wedding of the century

India gripped by wedding of the century


A HOST of A-list celebrities were arriving last night for one of the most lavish weddings ever seen in India.

The marriage of Manhattan millionaire Vikram Chatwal and model Priya Sachdev has attracted guests from across the world, and the Indian media has left no detail uncovered on the four-day extravaganza, the Times of India reported.

Former US president Bill Clinton, his wife Hillary and supermodel Naomi Campbell were believed to have been among a list of international celebrities gathering for the celebrations.

The groom is the son of Sant Singh Chatwal, an Indian-born US citizen whose family runs the Bombay Palace chain of restaurants in the US and the Hampshire Hotels chain in New York City. He was reportedly a major contributor to Rodham Clinton’s Senate campaign.

Spiritual guru Deepak Chopra, rap star P Diddy, Hollywood actor Harrison Ford and steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal were among the guests, along with Bollywood celebrities, industrialists and politicians.

The Hindu marriage ceremony was preceded by days of revelry, including spectacular theme parties at a 17th century floating palace in a lake in Udaipur, in the north-western desert state of Rajasthan.


A thoroughly modern Indian marriage

· Lavish week-long party for playboy and actress bride
· Bill Clinton and Naomi Campbell among guests
[ Randeep Ramesh in New Delhi, Saturday February 18, 2006,The Guardian ]

It is the Indian wedding of the year. In a lavish display of power and wealth, a US-based Sikh hotels magnate has thrown a week-long celebration spread over three cities with 300 guests from across the world arriving on three chartered jets for the marriage of his youngest son to an Indian actor and model.

Flying in for the nuptials of Sant Singh Chatwal’s son, Vikram, and Priya Sachdev are Bill Clinton, fresh from visiting earthquake victims in Pakistan, model Naomi Campbell, rap star P Diddy and billionaire Lakshmi Mittal. Also attending is the cream of the country’s film and fashion fraternity.

 The wedding, which began on Valentine’s Day, is taking in elephant polo matches and a masked ball on a floating Mughal palace in Udaipur. For the final few days the couple will be in Delhi, where the traditional turban tying ceremony takes place in a five-star hotel that will accommodate the French president, Jacques Chirac, and his US counterpart, George Bush, in the coming weeks.

The invitation stresses that the dress for the event needs to be "formal, no blacks or whites. Only colours". For foreign guests there is a 20-page wedding booklet which explains Indian attire: salwar trousers are baggy pants and the choli top is a tight-fitting blouse.

"It is fantasy," said one guest. "You are showered with flowers and there’s piles of Indian food. It is like being at a royal court, a durbar, of ancient India."

The traditional theme has surprised many. Vikram Chatwal was known for a playboy lifestyle in Manhattan. He briefly dated Brazilian model Gisele Bundchen, and had a G tattooed on his arm. Famous for racing around the city’s streets in an Aston Martin, Mr Chatwal had a penchant for partying. He ran up a $10,000 (about £5,700) bar bill and flew with P Diddy on a 767 for a rave in Morocco. He dabbled in films, securing roles in independent movies but failing to land a Hollywood part. Known as the Turban Cowboy, Mr Chatwal hung out with Naomi Campbell – a neighbour in Trump Towers.

Unlike his elder brother Vivek, who set eyes on his bride only half an hour before the ring ceremony in India, Vikram was set to break with custom. However his lifestyle changed abruptly two years ago, when he told a family friend, Queenie Dhody, a socialite in Mumbai, to look for a bride.

Although there was parental involvement, according to Ms Dhody, the ultimate decision was left to the couple.

"His parents were pressurising him to get married but it was his decision," she told the Guardian. "Vikram told me he was ready and I went looking for a girl for him. It was my husband who spotted her at a party and when they met they liked each other. A lot."

The Chatwals’ story is usually told as a triumph of the American dream: the family came to Manhattan by way of Canada from India and began with a small takeaway in New York.

Mr Chatwal’s parents, who live in an Upper East Side penthouse, now run a business empire that stretches from an Indian restaurant chain to hotels.




Turban Cowboy ties knot

Big fat Indian wedding for Manhattan playboy


Before an A-list crowd that included the Clintons and Sean (Diddy) Combs, New York’s so-called Turban Cowboy yesterday kissed his playboy lifestyle goodbye with a multimillion dollar wedding blowout in India.

The Big Fat Indian wedding of man-about-Manhattan Vikram Chatwal, 35, to model Priya Sachdev attracted a flashy crowd that flew to India from around the globe aboard chartered jets.

The week-long celebration was capped by a color-splashed Indian marriage ceremony.

Spread across three cities, with polo matches and lots of celebrities, the megabucks marriage could be one of the priciest bashes ever thrown in India, though Chatwal arranged a traditional wedding.

"I have been living 35 years outside," he said. "Now I want to show what it means to be Indian, what India is."

The son of Sant Chatwal, who owns the Bombay Palace on W. 52nd St. and several midtown Manhattan hotels, Vikram Chatwal is famous in New York society circles for his flashy lifestyle.

He parties with Diddy, jet sets around the world on private planes and is never far from gorgeous women. Now he’s married to one.

A family friend found Sachdev for Chatwal, who once dated supermodel Gisele Bundchen and sports a "G" tattoo in her honor.

"It was my husband who spotted her at a party and when they met, they liked each other. A lot," socialite Queenie Dhody told Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

Chatwal, who dabbled in movies and had a bit part in the Ben Stiller movie "Zoolander," now runs the boutique Dream Hotel on W.55th St. that’s part of his family’s empire.

In 2002, his dad was among the city’s leading deadbeats, owing more than $2 million in taxes on a building on Second Ave. in Manhattan. Sant Chatwal was also one of the leading donors to political action committees backing Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign, for which he contributed $210,000.

According to federal election records, Vikram Chatwal has contributed $40,000 to committees supporting Clinton’s first Senate bid and Dick Gephardt’s failed run for President.





Clintons lead the celebrity rush to India’s wedding of the century

Week-long, multimillion-dollar party lures rappers, nymphs and supermodels

[By Richard Edmondson in Delhi,Published: 19 February 2006 ]

After a week of unstinting lavishness, one of the biggest and fattest society weddings staged in India was still going strong last night, with Bill and Hillary Clinton, Naomi Campbell and Diddy among those joining the multi-million-pound nuptials.

Around 350 "permanent" guests have been attending the marathon marriage of the hotel tycoon and actor Vikram Chatwal to Priya Sachdev, a
model who has been offered her first Bollywood role. The extravag- anza saw them hopping on and off private flights, accepting haute couture clothes and gifts daily, and partying into the night as part of a three-city jaunt. "It has been hectic for us, but we are pleased to keep our guests happy," Daman Chatwal, the bridegroom’s mother, said.

The Chatwal family, which owns the Hampshire Hotels and Resorts chain and Bombay Palace restau- rants in the US, is not without influence. Vikram’s best man is Lucas White, who inherited the bulk of a £70m estate when his father, Lord ("Gordy") White, died in 1995. The young men share a taste for fine living, music and accumulating expensive cars. Chatwal himself has a penchant for Aston Martins, which he keeps at his homes in Long Island and in Park Lane in London.

Another confidant of the groom is the rap performer Diddy. Latecomers missed most of the fun. It all began with a sumptuous party in Mumbai on Monday night. The wedding caravan then moved on to the Shiv Niwas Palace at Udaipur in Rajasthan, where previous guests have included the Queen, Jackie Kennedy and Roger Moore. Gabriella Wright, the bridegroom’s co-star from the movie One Dollar Curry, was among guests showered in white petals by nymphs and diverted by Rajasthani dancers.

The following eve- ning saw a Venice Carnival ball at Jagmandir, the island palace featured in the James Bond movie Octopussy. Revellers were transported across Lake Pichola in boats draped with jasmine and roses, to be entertained by men on stilts, fire-eaters and actors decked in feathers playing waifs and harpies. After a Thursday break, the entourage returned to Delhi. And with celebrations almost at an end, it was on last night to the Maurya Sheraton, Delhi’s smartest hotel.

For the grand jaimala ceremony and the exchange of garlands between bride and groom, the dress code was colour only. This morning features the Anand Karaj, the religious ceremony, with a black-tie reception hosted by the groom’s parents. The three-week honeymoon will be in the Maldives.