It still stands out as the most graceful wedding ceremony in the history of Bollywood marriages. The overnight nikaah of Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu in 1966 was conducted at the bride’s bungalow -- bedecked in fresh jasmines and red roses -- on Pali Hill, Bandra. The film fraternity, photographers and reporters were invited and a Mughlai dinner was hosted. All very civil and courteously done.
Tongues had wagged that Saira Banu’s mother, the legendary actor Naseem, had disapproved of her daughter’s friendship with co-star Rajendra Kumar. The mother had asked, “Why don’t you get married? Anyone will marry you.” To that, Saira had riposted, “Fine. Get me Dilip Kumar and I’ll marry him right away.”
Naseem Banu said, “Done.”
And qabool qabool qabool hai, it was.
Practically every film newsperson knew this story. None reported it, and if they did, it was without blazing headlines.
The point is that once Bollywood weddings exuded a heady romantic aura. A media publicity overdrive was the last thing that a star pair expected or needed.
In fact, no press or intruders were permitted at the Amitabh Bachchan-Jaya Bhaduri wedding ceremony in June, 1973. The marriage was a must since Harvanshrai and Teji Bachchan had decreed that their son could not zoom off for a holiday through Europe with his co-star and steady date Jaya.
Solemnised with saat pheras at a friend’s apartment, here was the most low-key star wedding ever. No news reporters were present. An acquaintance of the Bhaduri family, a St Xavier’s college student, was. A freelance journalist, she scooped the story which appeared on the front page of the now-defunct Evening News of India.
There wasn’t an outbreak of follow-up reports by other newspapers. For the Eveninger’s readers, it was just another happy ending in the city’s Cinema Paradiso.
Before that on March 1973, the clutch of photographers covering the film beat didn’t need to be gated by burly security guards when the nation’s superstar Rajesh Khanna married the teenage Bobby sensation Dimple Kapadia. There was an age gap of 15 years between them. No big deal, ageism wasn’t underscored.
At most, a magazine reported that the superstar had removed a ring from her finger, gifted by Rishi Kapoor, chucked it into the Juhu sea, and proposed marriage to a taken-aback Dimple. The Bollywood artistocracy had turned up in droves.
Circa May 1973, when the fast-rising heroine Raakhee surprised all by marrying wordsmith Gulzar, a magazine featured them on the cover. And that’s it.
During the mid-1950s, Shammi Kapoor who was just being monikered ‘the rebel star’, tied the knot with co-star Geeta Bali without informing his family or his journo friends. He wished to be discreet.
And after rescuing the queen of the marquee, Nargis, from a fire on the sets of Mother India, Sunil Dutt had proposed marriage in 1958. No swanky celebrations, no media brouhaha.
Indeed, there was an era when actors had avoided any exposure about their weddings: Dev Anand-Kalpana Kartik, Manoj Kumar-Shashi Goswami, Shashi Kapoor-Jennifer Kendal, too, married without a jot of publicity.
To come to the here and now, it would be a gross understatement to point out that Bollywood star weddings have ballooned or have become way over-the-top and ostentatious.
More showy the oh-so-exclusive invites, more exotic the destination wedding at home or abroad, more the photographs (officially sanctioned), more the public curiosity which is ever- hungry for feasting on glamour. And that too without paying the price of a multiplex ticket.
Just supplant the popcorn with catered global cuisine, tequila shots, single malts and bubbly. But I could swear that I saw a popcorn machine at least two star wedding receptions – with caramel and cheese flavour options.
If doable - via a battery of negotiators - nowadays a star wedding can be sponsored by a made-in-heaven hotel in collaboration with food and beverages, and airline sponsors.
As it happens, journos don’t have cushy resources, unlike their Hollywood counterparts, to confirm the behind-the-scenes financial details circulating on the grapevine. A single iffy factoid could lead to acrimonious lawsuits.
Exclusive rights – and this is in keeping with the American high-end glossies – for photographs of the wedding go out for a price to their Indian editions, usually led by Vogue.
As for the alert desi paparazzi, they can merely aspire towards clicking flashbulb-popping pix of the star couple seen days before the shaadi at airports, restaurants and maybe, at the roka and sangeet celebrations.
Last year’s Virat Kohli-Anushka Sharma December wedding at a villa in Borgo Finocchieto, Italy, was a quintessential celebrity event. All quite slickly done.
By comparison, four years ago Anushka Sharma’s mentor Aditya Chopra, who introduced her with Band Baaja Baarat and Rab Ne Bana di Jodi, married Rani Mukerji at a still undisclosed countryside in Italy. No pix, no chatty titbits, since Chopra Jr avoids publicity like the dental plaque. A venue far away from Mumbai’s madding paparazzi which has swelled enormously, ensures control and cool media coverage.
Expectedly, the Deepika Padukone-Ranveer Singh marriage was solemnised at a Lake Como resort in Italy on 14 November, followed by formal traditional rites, topped by three different receptions. By the way, some reports have claimed that the Padmaavat pair’s pix topped the traction posted for the Virushka wedding.
Of course, the next attraction in the same genre, will be the Priyanka Chopra-Nick Jonas wedding on 1 December at the Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel in Jodhpur. Closer home, the paparazzi may just jet there in a bid to luck out.
Quite clearly, it’s the media which has altered dramatically. National newspapers would once ration the space and importance apportioned to a film-related copy. The front-page would be sacrosanct to civic and political headlines.
Now, movie news is major news. Today’s millennials are accustomed to the fact that there’s no news like a Big Fat Bollywood wedding.
Those days of fresh jasmines and red roses are gone.
. Read more on Bollywood by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsExclusive: Conflict of Interest in MoD Over Rafale Offsets? . Read more on Bollywood by The Quint.