I admit I don't have Katy Perry's I Kissed a Girl on my iPod. I don't follow Russell Brand's antics much either. But I am still deeply upset about their split.
I just don't think it's fair to Rajasthan.
The reputation of Rajasthan is hanging by a lehenga now, people.
First we had "turban cowboy" Vikram Chatwal and Priya Sachdev. They got married on an island in the middle of Lake Picchola in Udaipur in 2006. Three chartered 737s, painted elephants, a white and silver theme party under a full moon: their wedding was filmed for the Discovery Channel. "This better work out," said Deepak Chopra. "No one is going to do this kind of party again." They unofficially separated in 2010. He's busy "spoiling" Lindsay Lohan these days according to the gossip rags.
Then came Elizabeth Hurley and Arun Nayyar. They exchanged their vows at the Umaid Palace in Jodhpur in 2007 amidst horses, camels and Rohit Bal bride-and-groom outfits. They were granted a quickie divorce in 2010. It took all of 92 seconds to undo a wedding that had cost $2.5 million.
Now we have Perry and Brand. They had themselves a "Hindu style" wedding with a mandap in the middle of the Ranthambhore tiger reserve in 2010. They wore traditional Rajasthani dresses and went around a holy fire seven times while a priest chanted shlokas. Brand invoked Lord Ganesh. Fourteen months later he's invoking "irreconcilable differences."
Apparently Brand, a heroin addict turned Hare Krishna devotee, didn't like his wife's partying ways and wanted to settle down and have children. She wasn't ready. They were spotted spending Christmas apart without wedding rings. But that's just the usual cross that celebrity marriages have to bear -- the wear and tear of non-stop glamour, the price of fame, etc etc.
The love lives of celebrities have lost much of their larger-than-life spark anyway. Gone are the days of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton when love was tempestuous, messy, sozzled but you still believed in the passion. Now when Russell Brand told TV host Ellen DeGeneres in early December "I am really happily married... Perpetually until death do us part was the pledge" we rolled our eyes. Three weeks later when he announced it's over, our reaction to is more like, "Oh, they lasted 14 months? That's not too bad." In these cynical Kardashian times celebrities apparently feel they need to borrow some old-fashioned Rajasthan magic to add a little star-sparkle to their tawdry love lives. Guy Ritchie and Madonna tried a desperate dose of Rajasthan pick-me-up to save their floundering marriage.
But this isn't about Russell Brand. It's about Brand Rajasthan. Brand might get millions after his split from his very successful pop star wife. But what about Brand Rajasthan? What compensation will it get for the damage to its carefully crafted romantic allure -- of gallant men with fiercely curled moustaches and beautiful princesses peeping coyly from under their veils? Rajasthan is supposed to be about undying romance. The kind that makes women jump off the ramparts of forts rather than end up in the clutches of an invading rival prince. Or a portly Australian cricketer with a bad dye job. Didn't you read the legend of Padmavati, Liz Hurley?
At this rate, Amit Roy writes in The Telegraph, the Indian tourism ministry is going to have to start including a health warning and a loyalty card with the wedding permits.
This Hindu wedding is guaranteed for 12 months. But returning brides/grooms are eligible for a discount: 33 per cent after one year, 20 per cent after two...
I think this emergency calls for far more drastic measures. The next celeb couple that wants a little Rajasthan razzle dazzle for their shaadi shenanigans should cough up a hefty security deposit. If they split up within one year, they forfeit it 100 percent. If they last two years, they lose 90 percent and so on and so forth.
I hope the babus in our Incredible !ndia tourism office are paying close attention. This is not about Katy Perry and Russell Brand. It's about Rajasthan's izzat or honor -- and India's foreign revenues. Trade estimates put wedding revenues at $11-18 million with a growth rate of 20-25 percent. A normal wedding can cost $22,000 to $55,000. Throw in some camels and elephants and you can be looking at more than double that.
Alas, these celebrity cads and their fickle picture postcard marriages might end up being the kiss of death for our beloved state. Back in 2010, British news portals had reported that Brangelina were thinking of a Hindu wedding here under the supervision of their spiritual guru Ram Lal Siyag. That didn't happen in 2011.
Now it may never happen. And somewhere in the shadow of an old fort in Rajasthan, a caparisoned elephant weeps quietly into the desert sand.
The original version of this story appeared on Firstpost.com.