The golden couple
Many couples have chosen to use the front row of a fashion show as a public declaration of togetherness. Robert Vadra and his then girlfriend Priyanka Gandhi did it at an Ashish Soni show. Arun Nayar and Liz Hurley did it when they made a point of snuggling up in the front row at Paris Fashion Week in 2003.
So should we read something into the Preity Zinta-with-Ness Wadia appearance at Surily Goel’s show, and Ness’ use of the platform to make his first public admission of his relationship with Zinta? Not only did the heir to the Wadia empire say ‘I am a lucky man’ to be with Zinta, he showered her with attention, playing the protective boyfriend role to the hilt (no, he didn’t breathe fire when Salman Khan bent down from the runway and kissed his lady love’s hand, although his face did go blank for about three seconds). He shouted at a couple of camera-men who were falling on top of each other and Zinta to get her soundbite. Then, at Manish Malhotra’s show where she was walking the runway, he went backstage to escort his girlfriend out of the changing room and into a waiting car.
It’s the picture-book romance. A bubbly actress and her rich and suave but down-to-earth boyfriend. It, of course, brings to mind the other big love story – not since Anil Ambani and Tina Munim has there been quite as much of a repeat.
So then, was this a deliberate outing?
Just a quick recap of this courtship: The couple supposedly met at Shah Rukh Khan’s birthday party a couple of years ago. He joined Zinta in Melbourne when she was shooting for Salaam Namaste where he shot for a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance in the film. But it was Zinta who first admitted to the relationship when Ness made a trip to New York to be with her when she was shooting for Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna.
But he was only to appear with her in public after the Mumbai floods last year, when he accompanied her on the clean-up drive in Bandra, gamefully holding a broom in his hand. He still did not speak about Zinta – in fact it was his mother Maureen Wadia who spoke about her to HT, saying that they were seeing each other (she also added that she doesn’t care if he was seeing Zinta or a zebra, as long as he was happy).
There were rumours in November that Ness accompanied Preity and her mother to the Vaishnodevi shrine in Jammu – he is supposed to have sat through the aarti at the shrine like a devoted boyfriend, not bad going for the child of Zoararshtian-Christian parents. Then, rumours that Ness’ mother did not approve (stemming, perhaps, from the zebra reference) were squashed at the HT luxury conference in early-Jan when Maureen Wadia posed with the couple for a photograph.
It was a little after this that the relationship went somewhat more public, with Ness throwing a surprise birthday party for Zinta, calling each invitee personally and arranging a birthday cake with ‘Princess Preity’ written on it. That was a turning point. Says Surily Goel: “I don’t think they party together at all, but they are now beginning to make an exception for close friends as they did at the Aza party that they attended for me and Manish (Malhotra).”
They are the picture of Mumbai’s golden couple. Predictably, everybody’s gushing about them. Says socialite Queenie Dhodhy: “They look great and happy together.” Adds Suman Ranganathan: “He is well well-brought up, well-mannered he has great respect for women. They look great together.”
Mum Maureen, says that “they a fun couple.” Of Zinta, she says: “She is a fun girl and he is fun too.” Laughing adding that “asking a mother to talk about her son may not be a great idea,” she admits that Ness “wonderful, handsome, attractive” and “an eligible bachelor too”.
So let’s just get it from the mother’s mouth. Do the public appearance and the pictures suggest that marriage on the cards? “Oh my God, I think the media is reading far too much into this matrimony business. Yes, they are dating each other so naturally he will attend his girlfriend’s show,” says Maureen.