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Social mountaineering in London

‘Billionairess who splashed out £500,000 for Prince Charles’ 65th birthday party faces £350million fraud probe,’ said the Daily Mail last week in an extensive article (with the slug ‘Court in Isle of Man is due to hear case’) on Mumbai girl, the attractive Priya Hiranandani-Vandrevala (daughter of our friend Nirmal Hiranandani), whose spending habits appear to have created a stir in London’s upper echelons.


Prince Charles with Camilla

Described as a ‘socialite friend of Prince Charles’, Priya and her husband investment banker Cyrus Vandrevala had flexed such serious financial muscle that it had got the British middle market tabloid all frothed up.

“She and her husband have also paid a record £7,000 for a chocolate egg”. (They) ‘have a £20 million house in Holland Park, West London, close to the Beckhams’ mansion.. sport his and her jets,’ said the article and in a vaguely racial sneer quoted a source as saying, “Everyone can see Priya Hiranandani-Vandrevala prancing round London and hanging out with Prince Charles.”


Irina with her dad Mikhail Gorbhachev

Along with this, the paper carried supporting pictures of the Vandrevalas with various members of the international jet set like the royal couple, conservationist and avid India lover Mark Shand, Mikhail Gorbachev’s daughter Irina Gorbachev, and the wife of the President of Iceland!


Priya and Cyrus Vandrevala

About the allegation of fraud it said, “She launched an investment scheme which boasted that it would make hundreds of millions from two huge complexes of luxury homes, offices and shops in the Indian city of Chennai, and in Panvel, near Mumbai. Investors on London’s Alternative Investment Market were persuaded that India’s growing economy made the scheme a licence to print money. Institutions ploughed £350 million into the Hirco firm, named after its chairman Mr Hiranandani and his daughter, the chief executive. But according to the legal case against them, while they had suggested everyone would get their money back plus generous profits within five to seven years, no such money appeared.”


Mark Shand

And you want to know what we say?
We say this is probably the first time that Panvel has featured in an article, which carries a sentence like ‘gave £500,000 for the prince’s celebrations and sat next to him at the Buckingham Palace party’ and we hope it’s not the last!

Get well soon, Captain
Friends who’ve recently met the legendary Captain CKP Nair, founder-chairman of the Leela Group, cannot stop talking about his mental agility and zest for life. “The forthcoming elections, the latest business news, his own plans for expansion and his forthcoming biography are all part of his conversation,” they say. “But there is no doubt that he is weakening and that his age and health (he turned 92 this February) is catching up with him.


Captain CPK Nair

Reports say that the Captain, who launched his second career as one of the country’s top hoteliers when he was well into his 60s, has stopped attending office for a while now and is being attended to at his cottage on the grounds of the Leela Hotel Mumbai by a battery of physicians.

“His doting family and friends are around him,” says our source. “And we are all praying for his speedy recovery.”

Difficult customer 
Ask the personnel of the top five star hotels in the city who their most difficult client is and chances are they will come up with the same name: the high-profile wife of a well-known builder, this lady known to be a perfectionist is a F&B manager’s nightmare. “If she’s hosting a party at one of our eateries we know it’s going to be tough,” said one hapless manager.

So why put up with it? “Well, she is one of our best customers because she entertains a lot,” he said sheepishly. “And she does know a lot about entertaining in style. So we learn a lot from her too,” he said. When we asked a kitty party friend of the lady in question she corroborated the story. “Yes, it’s true,” she said, “It’s embarrassing to go to restaurants with her as there’s always an issue. But then she’s known for her extravagance. When she travels out of town for parties she even takes her own make-up and hair stylists along!” 

James ban gaya hero
“I’ve been getting a good deal of teasing Facebook messages from friends back home, asking if I’m going to give up journalism, or inquiring precisely what I had to do on the casting couch to get the role,” guffawed the swashbuckling head of FT’s Mumbai bureau James Crabtree. 


James Crabtree (right) with Bernard Imhasly on the sets of the movie Kick

He was referring to his recent Bollywood outing in which he played an English diplomat in an underproduction Salman Khan movie called Kick. The journalist had recounted the experience in the international financial daily with ‘I was to play British Diplomat #2, and had precisely two lines. There was to be neither singing nor dancing.”

Crabtree though is no stranger to cinema. His wife Mary Abdo is niece to the late Micky Moore, who’d begun life as a child actor and had been second unit director to the first three Indiana Jones movies; and her grandfather had been the doctor for one of the big Hollywood studios, with a star patient list that included Elvis Presley.

Had she been impressed, we asked Crabtree. “Well, I think my driver from the FT was the one who was especially excited when I told him that I had this small role,” he replied.

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