London, After honouring a Bhangra singer and choosing Sikhs to be her personal bodyguards, Britain’s reigning monarch has notched up another first by hosting a racy Bollywood dance in her gentle royal residence.
Queen Elizabeth II, her husband Prince Phillip and Princess Michael of Kent were among British royals who watched dancers from the British Asian group Nutkhut swing to the throbbing rhythms of Bollywood tunes in steps that could have come right out of a film set in Mumbai.
The event, an advance reception in honour of the October-end visit by President Pratibha Patil, was held Tuesday in the ornate ballroom in Buckingham Palace – the largest of its 775 rooms and one that is more used to hosting stately dinners than Bollywood shows.
Stood under a 30-ft domed red velvet canopy used at the 1911 coronation durbar of King George V and Queen Mary in Delhi, some 350 invited guests watched a dance that was described by its creator as “really sexy and hot”.
One guest called it “progress”.
“I was watching the performance and thinking this is the place where the head of state has sat and received people,” said Meera Syal, a well-known actor of Indian origin.
“And in this hallowed space you’ve got a group of Bhangra dancers. This is amazing, this is progress.”
Nutkhut’s Ajay Chhabra, who jointly choreographed the 15-minute show, titled Bollywood Steps, with his wife Simmy Gupta, said: “We felt the setting lent itself to a film set – the columns, the fabric of the canopy – the bling of it stood out.”
Gupta added: “It is up to date, really sexy and hot.”
After the show, the 83-year-old Queen – who is said to have seen a Bollywood performance once before in the city of Bradford – congratulated the performers.
The British monarch appeared to be in a relaxed mood – Syal’s husband Sanjeev Bhaskar, also an actor, said she liked Syal’s granny makeup for their hit TV show, �The Kumars At No. 42′, and laughed when he replied that no makeup was needed.
The guests – leading British-Indians – included steel tycoon Swraj Paul, cricketers Samit Patel and Monty Panesar, footballer Michael Chopra, television star Jimmi Harkishin, newsreader Krishnan Gurumurthy, Tom Singh, founder of the New Look fashion chain, and restaurateurs Namita Panjabi and Ranjit Mathrani, who own Veeraswamy, London’s oldest Indian restaurant.
Two chefs from Veeraswamy – established in 1926, the same year Elizabeth II was born – helped royal chef Mark Flanangan and his team prepare Indian canapes, including tofu salad rolls, paneer croquets and almond chicken tikka.
The queen included Punjabi Bhangra singer Malkit Singh in the royal honours list in 2008 and enrolled two Sikhs – Simranjit Singh and Sarvjit Singh – as her personal bodyguards in July this year.