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Tamil weddings are often chaotic family affairs but the Vignesh Shivan, Nayan wedding was a carefully orchestrated and controlled media event where the media wasn’t invited. Top stars were in attendance. From Rajinikanth through Shah Rukh Khan and Mani Ratnam, all the fellow celebrities were there. Media outlets got the photographs the very afternoon and they dutifully splurged on it. Since no one was allowed to take pictures on their cell phones only the official pictures were available.

It’s a couple’s prerogative how their wedding should be. It’s their decision who they want to invite and where and how the wedding should happen. But the Shivan, Nayan wedding has received much critical attention including in social media. The OTT rights for the wedding were sold for more than a crore of rupees. The wedding was to be conducted not just by priests, friends and family but as a staged event by a film director.

If a wedding brings in money, then a professional couple is well within their rights to make money out of it. Common folk can never dream of making a commodity out of their wedding. It’s beyond their imagination. But they are the ones who are keen to watch the wedding on video since they were not invited to it, although some had a heartburn over the lavishness.

The wedding was to be conducted not just by priests, friends and family but as a staged event by a film director

The staged wedding event wasn’t newsworthy at all. But the newsmedia went to town with it. Ratings matter most to them as that alone brings much needed cash.

It was probably fitting or perhaps deliberately symbolic that superstar Rajinikanth presented the thaali to Vignesh Shivan who tied it on Lady Superstar’s neck. Rajini did not invite anyone for his wedding in 1978. At the media event, he said he would bash up any nosy reporter trying to gatecrash. Forty-five years later, the media is a lot less adversarial and the newsmakers have learned how to play the media instead of being adversarial to it. And the media has gladly played along, sticking to the party line in Nayan wedding.

A lavish wedding is not new to Tamil Nadu. No one can forget the 1995 wedding of Jayalalithaa’s foster son. Her biting the dust in the next elections was largely attributed to that. Carping tongues try to speculate on Shivan-Nayan’s future, citing past lavish weddings.

But why has the Nayan wedding captured everyone’s attention? At its core is the affection the Tamil fan has for her. Nayan has positioned herself as a free-spirited personality and that has contributed, too. Her relationships and breakups have been conducted in the open. Nayan hasn’t cared to keep them under the wraps either. This has unsettled dominant attitudes, struck at old-world conservatism. The reactions we are seeing on social media owe a lot to this.

The appetite to know about personal lives of film stars has only grown among fans. Programmes like Bigg Boss have created the milieu where celebrities are stripped bare, metaphorically. Vijay TV made a successful television programme out of celebrity weddings. The Nayan wedding rode on all these to market itself.

Beyond that, the Shivan, Nayan wedding makes us wonder if the boundaries between society and individual lives have thinned. Nayanthara’s past has been frequently invoked. Her attitude and character have been slurred freely, telling us something about where a supposedly progressive society stands in a progressive state.

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