Belfast Telegraph

William and Kate join cream of Bollywood on red carpet

The Duchess of Cambridge has brought a touch of regal glamour to a night where Bollywood's brightest stars were on show for the start of the royal couple's India tour.

With William by her side Kate walked the red carpet in Mumbai wearing a glittering blue gown by British designer Jenny Packham and was matched by the leading ladies from Asian cinema.

The night attracted Bollywood royalty including King Khan, as actor Shah Rukh Khan is known to his fans, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar and actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, dubbed one of the most beautiful women in the world.

The charity gala night was staged in Bollywood's historic home Mumbai and hosted at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel, scene of some the bloody 2008 Mumbai attacks but now a symbol of defiance to the terrorists who killed 31 guests and staff.

The reception and dinner capped an eventful first day in India for the Cambridges and contrasted with an earlier visit to a slum where they walked narrow claustrophobic alleyways past the tiny two-room homes of families.

They also tried their hand at some football training but failed to hit a cone with a ball - which left Kate lamenting: "We both missed. That's terrible."

The Duke and Duchess joined Tendulkar in the city's famous Oval Maidan park for a game of cricket with a group of children at an event showcasing three charities working with disadvantaged youngsters.

Kate showed her prowess with the bat as did William but they both lost their wickets to the world-famous sporting celebrity who proved he can still bowl as well as bat.

The Bollywood night celebrated India's film industry and was hosted by the British High Commission and British Asian Trust, which supports grassroots initiatives in Asia that enable disadvantaged people to transform their lives, and has the Prince of Wales as its founder and president.

Such was the attraction of the royal couple that British High Commissioner Sir Dominic Asquith jokingly warned the stars against "besieging" the royal couple.

All eyes were on Kate when she arrived wearing the blue gown, with beading detail added in India in tribute to the country, and matching earrings by Indian jeweller Amrapali.

Bollywood superstar Khan was so delighted to meet Kate and William he invited them out on the town with him.

Asked what his first impressions of the Duchess were, Khan said: "Is it OK to say she's extremely beautiful and elegant? Well she is. If they spend more time here I think they'll love it. I could definitely show them a good time. I'll take them out."

Khan, 50, said: "This was the first time I'd met them. He was talking about the collaboration of the British and Indian film industries.

"I was talking about my kids who are studying in London. It's a very short visit and I said they should come back and spend longer here.

"They said they'd love to but they'd had to leave their children at home as their schedule was so jam-packed."

William, smart in a dinner jacket and black tie, and Kate posed on the red carpet, before they attended a champagne reception for some of Mumbai's well-heeled residents.

Among the other guests were Slumdog Millionaire star Anil Kapoor, Aamir Khan, actor Rishi Kapoor and film director Farhan Akhtar.

Diners were encouraged to donate to three local charities William and Kate had met at the Oval Maidan - school transport organisation Magic Bus, the Door Step School, which educates youngsters who support their families by working, and India's Childline.

When the guests sat down to eat during the gala dinner it appeared that William and Kate had opted for a vegetarian diet while in India.

They chose the non-meat options of the menu which included mushroom and pea curry, vegetable kebabs, spinach and corn curry, paneer - homemade cottage cheese - cauliflower rice, red lentil dahl and traditional Indian sweets.

Earlier in the day when they had lunch at the Taj Mahal Palace their chef Raghu Deora, 41, cooked them a meal without meat and said: "It is all vegetarian because I was told that was what they preferred."

The Duke gave a speech but before he began he expressed his condolences following the news earlier in the day that dozens of people had been killed in an explosion and fire sparked by fireworks in the southern Indian state of Kerala.

William went on to say: "When Catherine and I were married, India was the first place on Catherine's list that she told me that she wanted to visit. Two children and five years later, we have finally made it - and we are both honoured to be here.

"My family has a long and proud connection with India, and although our relationship has evolved, my family's high regard for India - the largest country in the Commonwealth - remains unchanged.

"It seems fitting that Catherine and I start our journey from here, a short distance from the place marked by the famous Gateway of India, where so many people, including my great-great-grandfather, have arrived.

"Catherine and I embark on a journey to get to know the vibrant India of the 21st century. An India whose traditions, culture and civilisation go back thousands of years, and yet co-exist with an India that is young, creative, entrepreneurial - an economic, cultural and political powerhouse, and an established democracy under the rule of law."

Richard Hawkes, chief executive of the British Asian Trust which organised the charity dinner, said: "Because of all the people who are coming tonight, the amount of publicity is a brilliant opportunity to talk about what we're doing.

"We're about the British Asian community in the UK seeking to make the biggest possible difference that it can in South Asia together with the convening power of our president the Prince of Wales - so our world is about that.

"This is the Prince of Wales's son and his wife coming here and establishing their own personal relationships here.

"We were in discussion with the High Commission about the best programme to put on and we felt that a dinner like his that could raise money for the organisations were working with and promote the causes as well would be great."

He added about the royal couple's seven-day visit - that will also take them to Bhutan: "They are loving it."

William and Kate were served Indian vegetarian dishes during the Bollywood charity dinner but they also tried some meat dishes, it emerged.

It is now known what they chose but the menu featured lamb braised with Indian spices and chicken and cashew nut curry.


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