Gali Janardhana Reddy is playing mind-games with himself. Born as the son of a mid-level policeman, he believes he is a reincarnation of the 16th century king Krishnadevaraya. This is why the wedding of his daughter Brahmani on 16 November has been turned into an occasion where Reddy can live his dream king size.
This week, Reddy has taken over the 50-acre Palace Grounds in Bengaluru. That is where the Vijayanagara empire will be recreated, complete with the Vijaya Vithala temple architecture of Hampi. It promises to be an out-of-this-world experience, to which only the 50,000 VIP invitees will get access.
It is a bit of a surprise how Reddy, whose assets were confiscated by the investigating authorities during the investigation into the illegal mining case, can afford to splurge on this scale. Unofficial estimates put the expenditure on the wedding at around Rs 500 crore. Reddy himself is not revealing the figure saying he will furnish the details to the concerned departments. But in these times of demonetisation and currency crunch, the bigger mystery is how Reddy is managing to pay all the marriage contractors and workers.
But those who have known Reddy say he has always been larger-than-life. Before his arrest in 2011, he lived in a palatial house, complete with a chopper. He had donated a Rs 40 crore crown to the Lord Venkateswara temple at Tirumala. He even had a 15 kg golden throne for himself and was always surrounded by over a dozen armed security personnel.
The stint behind bars in Hyderabad and Bengaluru central prisons for four years have not diminished his love to live a life of grandeur. Sample his gold-plated wedding invite which got even the Income Tax department interested. It was a LED display video invite produced on a lavish scale with Reddy and family, lip syncing to a choreographed welcome song and dance.
Bellary is where Reddy made his fortune. When he was granted bail last year, he was forbidden from entering Bellary. So he took special permission from the court to travel to Bellary from 1 to 21 November to make arrangements and invite local friends. In the last 12 days, Bellary has been reminded once again of the days when Reddy and his men ruled the district, that had then prompted former Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hegde to label the place as the 'Republic of Bellary'. His reference was to the influence Reddy wielded.
While Reddy and his brother Gali Somasekhara Reddy are inviting the high-profile VIPs personally, buses are also being arranged to ferry others from Bellary to Bengaluru for D-day. Already, Reddy's home in Bellary and even the mountain behind it have been decorated with lights for the last one week.
Reddy, superstitious by nature, believes that it was after his daughter was born, that his fortunes looked up. That explains the splurge for which he wanted to get the who's who of Bollywood and Tollywood to perform at the four-day long star night from 12 to 15 November.
But not everyone has been willing to play ball. A popular Telugu star who was offered Rs 50 lakh to make an appearance, refused to do so, because of the unsavoury tag associated with Reddy.
But those are minor hiccups. The entire set design is being done by Bollywood art directors and grapevine has it that elephants, camels, horses and chariots will add to the royal splendour that Reddy wants recreated.
The Palace grounds will have a dozen helipads for guests from outside Bengaluru to touch down directly at the marriage venue. Pretty much in the demeanour of a king, Reddy has also taken over Bengaluru. News reports indicate that over 1500 rooms in the top star hotels have been booked, along with 2000 cabs.
Though it is very tough now for Reddy to make a return to active politics, it will be of interest to see how the political who's who of Karnataka responds to his invite. Reddy practically funded the BJP for several years, especially around the time it came to power in Karnataka in 2008. Will BS Yeddyurappa whose government he secured by getting in extra MLAs, make an appearance? Risky given that BSY has just won a legal reprieve and would want to ensure a squeaky clean image ahead of the 2018 polls.
The only person who seems set to be part of the entire ceremony is Bellary MP of the BJP, B Sriramulu. He has always been a close associate of Janardhana Reddy.
On the Congress's side, chief minister Siddaramaiah has been extended the multimedia invite. But Karnataka Health minister KR Ramesh Kumar upped the ante by saying "no self-respecting person would attend the wedding''. Interestingly Kumar, a former Speaker, had moved a private member bill in November last year in the Assembly to prevent vulgar splurging by rich families during weddings. The Bill envisaged fixing a maximum rent of Rs 50,000 a day for hiring marriage halls. But the Bill never got support from lawmakers in the House.
The mother of all weddings will also highlight the two two sides of India in Bengaluru this week. On one hand there is this grandeur where there will be free flow of cash and on the other hand, long queues form in front of ATMs and banks, with people waiting for hours to get their hands on Rs 2000 to 4000. The only topped-up ATM in Bengaluru on that day will be Gali Janardhana Reddy.