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November 3, 1999


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A perfume called Lata

Suparn Verma

Vaijayanti Mala, Hema Malini and Preity Zinta
Vaijayanti Mala, Hema Malini and Preity Zinta Click for bigger pic!
With celebrity branding becoming quite the in thing in India, how can The Nightingale be left far behind? Which is why, after 'Zeenat' (endorsed by Zeenat Aman) and 'Shahrukh' (Shahrukh Khan), we now have Gandh Sugandh's 'Lata Eau De Parfum' (Lata Mangeshkar).

The sandalwood based perfume is the company's second creation. They had earlier launched Urvashi -- which they termed the costliest perfume in Paris -- with Viveka Babajee as their brand ambassador.

'Lata,' on the other hand, was launched with much fanfare at the Leela Kempinski ballroom, incidentally the biggest in the city. To make sure the evening began at 1930 hours IST sharp, the press were actually provided transport from various pick-up points. Lata Mangeshkar was, as usual, time. Still, thanks to the delayed arrival of the six leading ladies -- Vaijayanti Mala, Saira Banu, Hema Malini, Sridevi, Preity Zinta (even the PR people could not enlighten us with the name of the sixth) -- the launch could only happen at around 2030 hours IST.

Dilip Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar
Dilip Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar Click for bigger pic!
The stage was dominated by a large coconut-topped kalash and sandalwood, it seemed, was the colour of the evening. The celebs were trickling in... Aamir Khan arrived with wife Reena. The Khan duo were also spotted at Subhash Ghai's marriage anniversary and the Bombay Times bash.

We also spotted Dilip Kumar, Bappi Lahiri, Anu Malik, Yash Chopra, Bharat Shah, Shehnaaz Hussain and Hridaynath Mangeshkar. A Gandh Sugandh marketing manager started the proceedings with a 20 minute speech about the company and owner Deepak Kanegaonkar. The latter, who followed next, spoke for roughly about an hour.

His speech had only one saving grace -- a 15 minute monatge of Lata Mangeshkar's songs, interspersed with Dilip Kumar, Khayyam, Raj Kapoor, Kishore Kumar, R D Burman, Shahrukh Khan and others lauding her magical voice.

Shehnaaz Hussain and Lata Mangeshkar
Shehnaaz Hussain and Lata Mangeshkar Click for bigger pic!
Finally, when even the most patient looked impatient, Farida Jalal took over as emcee and invited the four leading ladies -- Sridevi was still missing -- and Lata Mangeshkar to actually launch the perfume. But the ribbons were adamant and it took awhile before they could be untangled. At the mystery resolved itself -- the perfume bottle was shaped like a kalash topped with a coconut. More speeches followed; everyone preferred to stick to praising Lata's voice and offering their best wishes.

Finally, it was the legend's turn. She softly admitted she was very shy and did not enjoy big do's, but had given in to the wishes of her nephew, Adinath, and his friend, Deepak. "I love perfumes," she added. "I have a cupboard full of them. You see, everytime I go abroad, I get myself a bottle of perfume because, as you can understand, I can't wear pretty dresses and I don't wear any make-up. Sometimes, my friends get me perfumes. This time, Aamir Khan, who has just returned from his shows abroad, bought me a bottle of perfume. In fact my friends used to joke, 'Lata, there is an income tax raid going on, you had better hide your bottles of perfume.' But, luckily, they remain untouched."

Sridevi and Lata Mangeshkar
Sridevi and Lata Mangeshkar Click for bigger pic!
She ended her speech on that note and gave momentos to Vaijayanti Mala, Saira Banu, Hema Malini and Preity Zinta. At which point, a rather hassled Sridevi joined them, confessing, "I'm sorry, but this time it wasn't the traffic or my husband who delayed me. It was my little baby." And she smiled. That was all it took for everyone to forgive her.

It was time for the auction of the first bottle of Lata Eau De Parfum, with Tom Alter as auctioneer. Registration was limited by the fact that the first bid had to be a minimum of Rs 50,000 and each bid had to be an increase of at least Rs 5,000.

Seven people had registered and the bidding crossed Rs 100,000 in less than a minute. The stakes immediately increased to Rs 200,000 when diamond merchant and film financer Bharat Shah entered the picture. His only competition was a young man who bid Rs 225,000. But he retreated when Shah bid Rs 300,000. Alter, in the spirit of the moment, got Shah to peel off another Rs 5,000. The hammer fell at Rs 305,000.

Wrap up began when Adinath Mangeshkar began thanking the crowd. Before he could finish, everyone was at the already crowded bar and buffet. As the rich, the famous, the wannabes all rubbed shoulders, their perfumes merged.

Photographs: Jewella C Miranda

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