>> So what is it like to be at 39 Altamount Road when it’s all dressed up to launch India Fantastique? Here you are welcomed by an eight-foot tall woman on stilts in silks and satins to set the tone of the evening and remind you that everything is over the top and wrapped in fabulousity. You gather with other guests in the lobby reception and are greeted by half a dozen smiling members of staff, as your nostrils inhale the fragrance of a hundred aromatic candles.
Exceptional and outstanding are the words that describe the next stage of the evening: a performance by Nritarutya — the Indian contemporary dance company held in the upper lobby where you run into the likes of Amitabh, Jaya and Aishwarya Bachchan, Shweta Bachchan Nanda, Karan Johar, Kokilaben Ambani, Farhan Akhtar, Tabu, Deepika Padukone, Dipti and Raj Salgaoncar and, Priya Dutt.
Everyone is dressed to the nines (a few to the tens) and everyone is giving their one hundred per cent. Success is like a drug. And in its presence every thing appears, as if it’s covered in magic dust. Then on to the lower lobby for stage two of the magical night where amongst other things the likes of Amitabh Bachchan and Nita Ambani walk the ramp, the models sway to old time Bollywood hits by DJ Mikey McCleary and his band, the stage fills up with some of India’s most famous women like Kokilaben Ambani, Jaya Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai and Deepika Padukone and the audience comprises of some of India’s most celebrated individuals like Waheeda Rehman, Murli and Hema and Milind and Pooja Deora, Hema Malini, Madhuri Dixit, Praful Patel and Kapil Sibal. And then on to dinner and dancing. Until the wee hours of the morning!
The morning after
>> The world is run by early risers. This was evident when the day after the Ambani-Abu-Sandeep event we learnt that both Nita Ambani and Sandeep Khosla had risen at 8 and 9 am respectively, and attended to the myriad after-party wrapping up and winding down chores.
“I slept around 5 am,” confessed a surprisingly relaxed Nita, very unlike a hostess who’d just hosted 300 people in her home. “It’s my discipline from waking for dance practice everyday at that time; Mukesh often worries about my lack of sleep,” she laughed.
Sandeep was equally bright eyed and bushy-tailed. Recalling the moment when he had broken down on stage during his speech the night before, he confided, “The sight of Jaya in the audience with tears in her eyes just did something to me. I couldn’t continue. Abu standing next to me was trembling. I guess being emotional is a part of creativity,” he said.
The address for excellence
>> For those who believe that parties are nothing but social shindigs held only so that a set of people can kick up their heels, the trajectory of receptions held at the Ambani residence ought to be a gentle rap on the knuckles.
Consider these facts: there have been four major functions at 39 Altamount Road since its famous residents moved in: a party in honour of internationally renowned sculptor Anish Kapoor, followed by a celebration to mark Sachin Tendulkar’s 100 centuries; followed by a soiree to meet the UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon and Saturday’s party to celebrate 25 years of Abu-Sandeep’s oeuvre and launch their book India Fantastique. Four parties, each one an acknowledgment of different areas of Indian excellence in art, international relations, sport and design. “After all, what is the point of having such a beautiful home,” says Nita. “When we built it, it was always with the idea that it would be a stage to present the best of India, we wanted to extend our home and hospitality to expressions of Indian achievement and excellence and showcase living excellence.”
The bashful billionaire
>> When we asked Mukesh Ambani what it felt like to be on stage surrounded by beautiful women dressed in exquisite clothes, the bashful billionaire blushed. “All my life I have been surrounded by graceful, gracious and talented women,” he said. “From my mother Kokilaben who is one of the most graceful women I know, to my beautiful and dynamic wife Nita and daughter Isha, I have always been in the company of beauty,” he responded. “So, I guess you could say I am to the manor born!”
Enter Gen Next
>> A collection of the country’s best and brightest, a living museum of extraordinary talent, a celebration of India’s heritage — India Fantastique held at the Ambani home on Saturday was many things, but above all it was a subtle but strong reminder of a new generation waiting in the wings — ready to fly. No better indication of this was the confident debut of the charming Isha Ambani, who in a show of grace and elan, introduced the evening with a short informal speech marked for its warmth and sincerity.
“Abu-Sandeep have been making my clothes ever since I’ve been a baby,” she said disarmingly. “And it is only fitting that we host their 25th anniversary.” Isha who is a senior at Yale, has already proven that she’s a chip of the old block: she is the President of the South Asian Society at Yale University and has distinguished herself in her academics and extra-curricular activities; more importantly, she appears to have inherited her sense of simplicity and graciousness from her parents. “She is so charming, humble and unassuming,” said Sandeep. “My choreographers, assistants, and staff absolutely adore her,” he said adding, “All credit must be given to Nita for bringing up her children so well.”
Besides Isha, the evening also marked the debut of Amrita Singh and Saif Ali’s lovely daughter Sara Ali, who walked the ramp in a pink Rajasthani ensemble with confidence that far belied her young years. And everywhere you looked the younger generation was in evidence, reminders of Time’s relentless surge.