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Rihanna performs in India for pre-wedding party thrown by Asia's richest man

By Agence France-Presse Published Mar 02, 2024 11:25 am

Rihanna and Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg were in India Friday for an extravagant pre-wedding party hosted by Asia's richest man, with celebrations expected to include other globally influential figures.

Global tech bosses, industry titans, Bollywood stars, pop stars, and politicians are also due for the three-day gala celebrations hosted by billionaire tycoon Mukesh Ambani.

This weekend's party is an elaborate pre-wedding ceremony for younger son Anant and fiancee Radhika Merchant, the daughter of wealthy pharmaceutical moguls.

Photos published by Indian media confirmed the arrival of Rihanna, Zuckerberg, and the Facebook founder's wife Priscilla Chan in Ambani's hometown of Jamnagar, along with former US president Donald Trump's eldest daughter Ivanka.

Umbrella singer Rihanna, who gave birth to her second child in August, led Friday's entertainment in her first public performance since last year's Superbowl.

Broadcaster India Today reported that the Barbadian-born musician and women's beauty entrepreneur had been offered up to $9 million (P504 million) to appear at the event.

Ambani, 66, is chairman of Reliance Industries—India's biggest company by market capitalization—and the world's 10th-richest person, according to the Forbes billionaires list, worth more than $116 billion (P6.5 trillion).

He inherited a thriving industrial enterprise spanning oil, gas, and petrochemicals from his father and grew it into a commercial behemoth with lucrative interests in retail, telecommunications, and an Indian Premier League cricket team. 

Reliance's partnerships with storied fashion brands such as Burberry, Armani, and Jimmy Choo have helped the conglomerate cater to the growing appetite for luxury goods among India's middle class.

Ambani's family home Antilia—a 27-floor skyscraper that reportedly cost more than $1 billion (P56 billion) to build and has a permanent staff of 600 servants— is one of Mumbai's most prominent landmarks.

It was criticized after its 2010 completion by author Arundhati Roy and others for starkly illustrating the wide gulf between India's business elite and its poor multitudes. 

Ambani held the most expensive wedding in India to date for his daughter in 2018, which reportedly cost $100 million (P5.6 billion) and saw US pop megastar Beyonce perform.

Younger son Anant, 28—who also serves as a director on the boards of several Reliance-owned firms—is expected to marry Merchant, 29, later this year.

The Ambanis kickstarted celebrations on Wednesday by launching a three-day feast for villagers at the Reliance Township in Jamnagar, in India's western state of Gujarat.

The Ambanis are also building a Hindu temple complex in the city to mark the wedding, the Reliance Foundation said on social media.

Star-studded guest list

US illusionist David Blaine is also expected to be part of the entertainment for guests, who include Microsoft founder Bill Gates and several current and former political leaders.

Also among the invitees is Disney chief Bob Iger, following a deal agreed Wednesday between Reliance Industries and Walt Disney to merge their Indian media businesses.

The merger will create an $8.5 billion entertainment giant in the world's most populous nation and fifth-largest economy.

Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan, cricket greats Sachin Tendulkar and M.S. Dhoni, and industry titan Gautam Adani are also invited in a who's-who of India's super-rich elite.

The main celebrations, running until Sunday, will have different themes, events and dress codes—including a "jungle fever" day with a visit to an animal rescue center run by Ambani, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported. (AFP)