Scoop: Russell Brand-Jemima Khan in Rajasthan

"Please confirm it from your own sources,” said the SMS from one of our deepest throats.

"Please confirm it from your own sources,” said the SMS from one of our deepest throats. “But a couple looking very much like Russell Brand and Jemima Khan have just boarded a Mumbai-Udaipur flight with me. She’s wearing a simple white cotton dress, he’s in his trademark drainpipes and there’s a small amount of PDA.

” The text came in on Monday night and, of course, we set our sleuths on work overtime. After all, the presence of one of UK’s most celebrated star couples, the maverick and outspoken comedian, actor, radio host, and author Brand and the beautiful charity fundraiser, human rights campaigner, and contributing writer for newspapers and magazines, Khan, who have been dating for a few months now - is big news.

And sure enough, we got a confirmation. “The couple, who checked out of the Taj at Apollo Bunder on Monday morning, were booked under pseudonyms,” says our source. “They were then booked into Umaid Bhavan in Jodhpur, which they cancelled, and then at Udaipur’s Devigarh. Currently, they are at Aman Bagh in Ranthambhore,” said our source. “And they have a booking at the Taj Land’s End on January 3 before they fly out.”

We were surprised that the news hadn’t been picked up by other media. After all, a high- profile couple such as this could not escape notice for too long. Especially not since the feeding frenzy that took place when Brand got engaged to Katy Perry on New Year’s Eve in 2009 while holidaying in India and then married her - at guess where - Ranthambhore in 2010. So, is this going to be a repast performance for the actor comedian? Watch this space!

Star power in Phuket
Gulu Lalvani, the British-Asian founder and chairman of Binatone, one of UK’s largest privately owned consumer electronics companies, is a card- holding member of the international jetset and his credentials include dating the late Princess Di and founding the £32m Royal Phuket Marina, where he regularly hosts his friends like Pierce Brosnan.

Well, there appeared to be an influx of stars trooping in to his Thai beach resort this weekend, when the Bachchan family dropped in to spend time with their samdhi, Rajan Nanda (Shweta’s father-in-law) who has a home next door to Lalwani’s Marina. And as if this star power weren’t enough, Lalwani says he was delighted to receive a call from SRK and family, saying they too were in town and happy to meet.

According to our source, not only did Lalwani take this stratospheric star constellation comprising two of India’s biggest stars for a spin on his yacht, but he also hosted them at his resort. And for those wondering about this latest star bonding between the Bachchans and the Khans , apparently it is predicated not only on Abhishek’s engagement with Red Chillies Productions’ latest venture, but also the fact that the Nanda and Khan progeny have struck up a friendship in UK where they attend school. (And as any parent knows, holidays are dictated by where the kids want to hang.)

Monday night at the Salgaonkars
“What can one give Raj?” said Dipti Salgaonkar rhetorically, as she took us to see the exquisite black and white collage of their wedding photographs that she had surprised her husband with that morning, which had now usurped a space previously occupied by a prized Sabavala.

The occasion was the eve of the couple’s 30th wedding anniversary, celebrated in great style at their breathtaking Dona Paula home on Monday night, to which guests like Surina Narula, Piyush Pandey, Manisha Koirala, Madhu and Naresh Trehan, Feroze and Mohit Gujral, Lord Meghnad Desai, Subodh Gupta, Vijay Mallya, and Micky Punj, amongst others, came to raise a glass of festive cheer. We have attended many a pre-New Year’s Eve party at the venue.

The three things that make the Salgaonkar’s annual bash stand out from the blur of year- end celebrations are: the outstanding food, but overseen by the house chef, a lady of impeccable culinary pedigree; the great music, culled from a certain rock vintage, and the extraordinary array of guests. Well, this year, along with everything else there were two extra sparkles: a spectacular fireworks display and the presence of the couple’s daughter, the lovely Isheta, newly back from Columbia Journalism school and resplendent in the evening’s theme: green! Nice!

To new beginnings
So here’s to the New Year. To new beginnings. To new lives and loves and days of sunshine and happiness. Here’s to the New Year. To dreams coming true and prayers being fulfilled. To bridges being crossed, wounds being healed and hearts mending. The New Year. May new brooms sweep clean and old gripes fade away. May smallness and pettiness and the green-eyed monster be banished, and may people embrace their better, more evolved selves. Here’s to the New Year. May we all achieve not only what we desire, but also what we deserve. And may we keep meeting on these pages and between these lines throughout the New Year, gentle reader.

Power lunching
And as media power lunches go, this one surely merits mention. Guess who were spotted enjoying a private and laid-back brunch at Goa’s Villa Blanc in Assagaon on New Year’s Eve? None other than the dapper Rahul Kanwal, Headline Today’s head honcho and Minty and Nina Tejpal, Tarun’s brother and sister.

And whereas we don’t know what was being discussed at the café’s charming open-air mosaic table setting, we gather it would be slightly more important than the price of fish at Mapsa! Tejpal, as is known, is languishing in a Goan jail and Kanwal’s channel has done many a programme discussing the sexual harassment case against the crusading journalist.

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