His Royal Highness Nawab Shahabuddin Mohammad Akbar the XXIII (popularly known as Prince Akbar) is all set to marry Sonya Usmani in what is marked to be the wedding of modern day Pakistan. As the country winces under inflation and instability, many are making discounts for a day thatâ€™ll bring a spirit of celebration, formerly expected from the cricket team. The government, as expected, has announced Friday April 29, as a national holiday.
Critics believe the royal display of wealth a show of apathy towards the nationâ€™s crumbling economy â€“ â€œTheyâ€™re using the taxpayers money to pay Nizamuddinâ€™s bill,â€ – argued one socialite who wasnâ€™t on event manager Frieha Altafâ€™s guest list. But Royal Family spokespeople are arguing that since most people in Pakistan donâ€™t pay taxes, this doesnâ€™t apply.
Â The bride, Sonya Usmaniâ€™s dress is under great speculation and the ISI has been guarding the designerâ€™s identity as a trade secret. Rumours are rife that it will be either Bunto Kazmi, Faiza Sami or Sana Safinaz, Pakistanâ€™s top bridal couturiers but the already elusive designers have become ever more unapproachable and have refrained from commenting. HXY, also incredibly popular for bridal wear, was never in the running as the Royals believed it would be impossible for him to undertake a project so mammoth and not promote/talk about it.
Â While the groom will be wearing an Amir Adnan sherwaiÂ topped up with a regal ancestral turban, the bride will most certainly be dressed in a farshi gharara with a very long train. Whether sheâ€™ll cover her face with a traditional ghungat is also under discussion, given her French connections and the recent French ban on face veils. Her jewels, however, are believed to be over 300 years old and are priceless.
Â â€œI was asked to make the sherwani but the Royals were not willing to pay me,â€ designer Deepak Usmani, also a distant relative of the bride, spoke to ET exclusively. â€œAfter having worked so long in the industry we expect at least that much respect yaar!â€
Â The wedding procession will begin from the Governorâ€™s House in Lahore, where Prince Akbar will ride his noble steed across the length of Mall Road. He will make a brief stop at Data Darbar (to offer a chaddar prepared by Junaid Jamshed) after proceeding to the Badshahi Mosque, where he will say his Friday Prayers before the Nikaah officiates. The Royal Couple will then be traveling back the same route in a bridal buggy (much after the Jumaa break) and will be entertained on route by the Royal Band comprising Atif Aslam and Ali Zafar. It is feared that Ali and Atif may refuse to share stage at the eleventh hour so the ever-dependable Strings have been kept as back up. Ali Azmat has been sent on a one-way trip to London.
Â The Mall Road, it must be noted, has been hit by a grand â€˜clean upâ€™ mission in preparation of the wedding procession that will include some of the nationâ€™s top dignitaries. In fact the wedding procession will be participated by â€˜allâ€™ dignitaries as not too many qualify as â€˜dignifiedâ€™ to begin with. Beggars have been transported off to Gujranwala and socialites desperate to be on the Page 3 coverage of the wedding have been allowed to position themselves behind the pickets. Many of them have traveled from Karachi.
Â Unilever has sponsored the tents and has requested that all interviews be recorded against the branded backdrop.
Â Other than the usual political and government officials, a large number of fashion and entertainment celebrities will also be seen in their finery. â€œThis will be the grandest and longest red carpet Iâ€™ve ever done before,â€ Frieha Altaf has boasted on record.
Â While most people are honoured to be invited to the Royal Wedding, film actor Praan, unfortunately, has asked for 3 million rupees to make an appearance and therefore his invitation has been withdrawn.
Â â€œWe donâ€™t need them; they need us,â€ he went on record to say. â€œThey are paying Shah Rukh Khan to come and perform at the after-party tonight, arenâ€™t they? I am offended.â€
Meera, Reema and Veena Malik have been forcibly sent across to India (not that they needed much persuasion) to create a diversion (in India) from Praan and the occasional rioters and trouble-makers that are protesting outside Badshahi Mosque. Also because it is feared that they will try and upstage the bride.
Â The Royal Wedding is being estimated as the most watched live TV coverage since Raymond Davisâ€™ court hearing. This day has been long awaited in Pakistan, where weddings are always celebrated with fanfare and aplomb. While the government has put a ban on GEO TV from covering the event live, 54 other channels (many of which we have never heard of) have been awarded permission with only a 10 per cent commission going back into the governmentâ€™s fun-raising charity for earthquake and flood victims.
Â (Visual by Essa Malik courtesy Express Tribune)