Paying Shah Rukh Khan to upstage the bride

Families are paying millions to have Bollywood stars mingle with their relatives at wedding parties. Lollywood next?

Huma Qureshi November 19, 2010
Let’s face it. Asian weddings aren’t particularly known for being understated.

But the news that some wealthy Indian families are now paying Bollywood stars to pretend to be relatives and appear at their weddings as guests, takes over-the-top to a whole new level. The sort of level that is so absurd, it beggars all laugh-out-loud belief.

According to an article published earlier this week in the Guardian, socialite families are paying anything from £7,000 to £70,000 (Rs952,438  to Rs9.5million) for Bollywood actors and actresses to mingle with wedding guests, make idle chit chat and have photos taken with the newly-weds while pretending to be the third cousin of the second cousin of the bride (or some other distant, completely made-up family connection).

Meanwhile, news agency Agence France Presse (AFP) reports that some families are booking Bollywood actors to play in a pre-wedding cricket match with the groom, or hiring an actress to go on a shopping trip with the bride. Celebrity friends you have to pay for -  but of course, darling!

It’s just all so very, well, Bollywood, and symptomatic of society's heady celebrity obsession gone to the extreme - where money knows no bounds.

I’m a little confused as to exactly why anyone would pay someone, Bollywood star or otherwise, millions of rupees to pretend to be related to them - besides which, surely every wedding party has its own collection of heroes, villains, divas and drama queens without needing to buy them in. But over in socialite land, or should I say, social-climbing land, pretending to be distantly related to someone like Minishha Lamba (if like me, you’re thinking ‘Who?’, a quick Google search will tell you she’s starred in a handful of movies, and was born in 1985 - your long lost cousin, obviously, who is among the Bollywood stars available for hire) somehow ups your social image and makes you look bigger, better and richer than everyone else. Because, obviously, that’s what matters - right?

I’m yet to hear whether you can hire Lollywood stars to step in as distant relatives at Pakistani weddings (although the reasons why anyone would want to are probably even more obscure than they are for hiring Bollywood ones), but that’s not to say that there’s no keeping-up-with-the-Khans going on. Weddings across the globe are ritually becoming less about the commitment of marriage between two people about to embark on the rest of their lives together, and more about putting on a show of wealth, for all to see.

A few years ago, the BBC reported on the 'ever-growing demands' of South Asians in the US, where rich families were paying anything from $8,500 up to $30,000 for an elephant for the groom to ride in on. Sure, it's adds a little fun to a party, but at $30,000? For an elephant?

There’s nothing wrong with spending money on yourself for your big day, and there's certainly nothing wrong with celebrating in style. But it's how you do it, and your reasons why. There's a big difference between enjoying yourself with friends and family, and, frankly, showing off for the sake of it. A wedding planner in India told AFP:
‘A wedding is the best way to shout, scream and use every method you can to announce: I am rich. And you are my guest.’

I hope he was being ironic, but somehow I don't think he was. So if that’s your reason for getting married, then good luck - you’re probably going to need it.
Huma Qureshi An award-winning journalist and freelance features writer living in London, whose work appears regularly in The Guardian and The Times.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

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