By Malini Menon
NEWDELHI (Reuters) – Dozens of chartered planes carrying celebrities, including former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton, flew into a sleepy airport in western India for the lavish pre-wedding festivities for the daughter of India’s richest man.
Isha Ambani, 27, daughter of Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani, will marry Anand Piramal, 33, in the financial capital of Mumbai next Wednesday, but the celebrations began this weekend in the desert city of Udaipur, with feasts, singing and dancing, and other pre-wedding rituals.
Security was beefed up as the high-profile guests started arriving at Udaipur’s airport, said a source at the scene, who asked not to be identified. Outside, they were awaited by luxury sedans driven by chauffers wearing white uniforms and colourful Rajasthani turbans.
The Clintons and the Ambanis have an association that goes back more than 18 years and have met several times both in India and abroad, according to Indian media reports.
Then President Bill Clinton held meetings in India with the Ambanis, including deceased founder and Mukesh’s father Dhirubhai Ambani, just before and after he left the presidency in 2000-2001.
In March this year, when Hillary Clinton visited India to deliver a keynote speech at a conference in Mumbai, she dined with the Ambanis at their 27-floor Antilia residence – one of the world’s most expensive homes, according to local media.
Many other top industrialists, politicians, sports and Bollywood stars descended in Udaipur on Saturday to join what has been dubbed locally “the big, fat Indian wedding.”
Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and newly-weds, actress Priyanka Chopra and singer Nick Jonas were among the guests joining the bash.
Former head of advertising giant WPP, Martin Sorrell, BP Group CEO Bob Dudley, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch and Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih are also invited.
Guests for the celebrations, which will bring together two of India’s most influential families, have access to an app mapping out the activities, which include a private concert by Beyonce.
Many in India, where millions live in dire poverty, have closely followed the preparations, including the Ivy League-graduate couple’s engagement at the luxury Villa D’Este hotel on Italy’s Lake Como, attended by more than 600 guests, and featuring a private performance by singer John Legend.
(Additional reporting by Amit Dave in Udaipur and Rahul Singh; Editing by Martin Howell and Helen Popper)