This appeared in the Times of India this morning. Since it was on the front page, it attracted an insane amount of attention from world media. I was away for the day in Pune... and the calls kept interrupting my much needed break. Are you surprised????
Valhalla? Xanadu? No. It’s Awesome Antilia that’s Mumbai’s newest landmark!
“ This is not a home – it is a statement!” gasped an invitee ( one of eighty hand picked guests), standing on a windy terrace garden in the world’s most expensive private residence. There was shock and awe in his voice. Absolutely no debate there. It is indeed a major statement! The same guest continued, “ Some cities are known for their spectacular airports, Mumbai will be known for this landmark Ambani house, which is bound to become iconic.” It is already one of the most controversial buildings in the world, for reasons that go beyond its unconventional architecture. Mukesh and Nita Ambani played hosts to an interesting mix of people at their lavish housewarming party put together at short notice on the 25th night, in order to pre-empt an anticipated paparazzi attack on Altamount Road on 28th November, where ‘Antilia’ , is located. Smart move. After months of speculation and even published reports last month of the ‘party that never happened’, guests at this super exclusive dinner, were requested not to reveal the date for the official unveiling of the most opulently appointed residence ever created. Rising dramatically, 300 metres above sea level , and built at a staggering cost of over a billion dollars, ‘Antilia’ ( the name is likely to be changed to ‘Anandam’) can be described as the Taj Mahal of the 21st century. Cantilevered and colossal, it easily dominates the skyline of the city. From the exquisite Krishna temple on the ground floor to Mukesh’s personal library on the top floor, it is a staggering feat! As Shekhar Kapur, one of the few Bollywood invitees ( the others being Preity Zinta, Aamir Khan, Karan Johar, Karishma Kapoor and Vidhu Vinod Chopra) commented from the roof ( no, there isn’t going to be a helipad here, the new plan is to transform it into a lush terrace garden), “It’s great to breathe fresh air at this height and leave Mumbai’s pollution down below.” A telling remark that can be read on many levels! From that impressive height and with those panoramic vistas, Mukesh and Nita are clearly the undisputed masters of all they survey – east, west, north, south.
But as the proud owners of this coveted property pointed out, this is their one and only residence, and unlike some other industrialists (nameless, of course!), the Ambanis insist they do not have villas tucked away in exotic destinations across the world. Point taken by Corporate India and critics! Representing the big biz segment Deepak Parekh, Kumarmangalam Birla, Anand Mahindra and Gautam Singhania were seen walking around on the mother of pearl floors and taking in the marble Mughal style canopies in the middle of lotus pools, as the dulcet strains of Rahul Sharma’s santoor wafted across the lawns. “Welcome to India…. welcome to our home,” said Nita to internationally renowned sculptor Anish Kapoor and Yves Carcelle of the luxury brand LVMH. The artists’ community was headed by Satish Gujral (accompanied by the entire Gujral clan), Subhodh Gupta, Atul and Anju Dodiya, Jitesh and Reena Kallat, Bose Krishnamachari ( Nita is keen to support emerging artists). Sipping her favourite red at the bar, Parmeshwar Godrej in trademark black, held court with the likes of Abu Jaani and Sandeep Khosla ( who had designed the traditional chikankaari outfits worn by all the Ambani ladies). Champagne and conversation continued to flow till dinner in the ballroom ( yes – that’s right, ballroom!)was announced by Nita. High speed elevators manned by polite, bandgala–clad attendants, took invitees to what has got to be the biggest, glitziest ballroom in India ( Versailles Palace is a poor cousin!) with a single, dazzling chandelier ( shades to cut the glare recommended!) that covers the entire vast ceiling .Gliding down the gigantic stairway leading to the expansive space, it was possible to believe for one mad moment that we were all at Cinderella’s Ball. Buffet tables ( shudh vegetarian fare) lining one of the unending walls, offered Gujarati specialities along with unusual desserts like ‘sitaphal halwa’. Dominating yet another lawn ( there are three main gardens, plus a bird park) outside the Ballroom, a gigantic Vishnu sculpture by Satish Gupta, looked on benignly at Sachin and Anjali Tendulkar, while Uddhav and Rashmi Thackeray chatted with Hema and Milind Deora.
It was good to see Kokilaben Ambani ( who has an entire floor to herself), arrive in time for dinner, perhaps after attending her other son Anil’s parallel party which was being hosted at the original Ambani residence ‘Seawind’ ( where she also has her own floor). Here’s one mother who has a great deal of commuting ahead of her – just like other Mumbaikars. What great levelers our pot-holed roads are!