Tuesday 24 April 2018

Big Bang Theory's Kunal Nayyar 'overwhelmed' to attend royal reception

The Duchess of Cambridge speaks to chef Vikas Khanna at Buckingham Palace
The Duchess of Cambridge speaks to chef Vikas Khanna at Buckingham Palace
British-Indian actor Kunal Nayyar and his wife model Neha Kapur arrive at Buckingham Palace

The Big Bang Theory star Kunal Nayyar has been left "overwhelmed" by a glittering Buckingham Palace reception celebrating Anglo-Indian culture.

The Queen hosted the evening which saw leading names from the arts, sport, fashion and showbusiness invited to her landmark London home in recognition of the 70th anniversary of Indian independence and to launch the UK-India Year of Culture 2017.

Guests included former India cricket captain Kapil Dev, musician Anoushka Shankar - daughter of legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar - and her husband film director Joe Wright, and former EastEnders actress Nina Wadia.

The royal family have a close association with India going back hundreds of years and the Queen was joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Princess Eugenie who all mingled with the guests.

Kate wore a sparkling outfit by Erdem and paid homage to the Asian guests by wearing a pair of earrings by Indian designer Anita Dongre, while the Queen was dressed in a purple Stewart Parvin dress and jacket.

Nayyar, who plays Raj in the popular American sitcom, was joined by wife Neha Kapur. He said: "What a dream, we were driving through the gates, I've never been here and it's really a dream come true for us.

"I don't know what to think, I'm a little overwhelmed."

Speaking about the event, which celebrated Asian and British talent, he replied: "Well you know I was born in Hounslow so I'm a British kid, grew up my whole life in New Delhi in India then moved to America and ended up on this TV show and my dreams came true, so it's really come full circle to be invited by the Queen to be part of UK-India culture here."

The Anglo-Indian theme of the night was reflected in the canapes on offer, with guests having the choice of spice-rich delicacies or traditional western-style morsels.

Mark Flanagan, head chef at Buckingham Palace's kitchens, and Uday Salunkhe, executive chef at Veeraswamy, said to be the UK's oldest Indian restaurant, led their respective teams as they spent six weeks devising the menu.

Raj puri - fried unleavened bread with yoghurt herbs - and boondi chocolate rock, fried chickpea flour kernels covered in chocolate, were some of the bite-sized dishes served alongside salmon blinis and rhubarb and creme brulee tartlets.

Among the guests was director Gurinder Chadha, best known for her movie Bend It Like Beckham, who has a new feature out called Viceroy's House, which tells the story of the partition of India and features Hugh Bonneville as Lord Mountbatten, India's last Viceroy and a mentor to the Prince of Wales.

She joked about trying to arrange a private screening for Charles to see her latest movie: "Funnily enough I was on the phone to Prince Charles' private secretary trying to work out how he can see the film and the family see the film.

"I want them to see it at the cinema, I don't want them to see it on tape, this glorious, sumptuous film made in settings like this - I don't want them to see it on a dodgy DVD."

She added: "I think what is wonderful about this evening is it is 70 years since the end of British rule in India so just to have an amazing gathering like this... it really does indicate, despite the empire and despite the British Raj, there are actually very very close ties between Britain and India."

Displays of Indian artefacts from the Royal Collection were exhibited for the guests, from rare artwork to pictures from the Queen's visits to India over the years, but the prize piece was the shawl made from yarn woven by Gandhi and given to the then Princess Elizabeth as a wedding present.

Earlier in the day, the Band of the Grenadier Guards had played a selection of Indian-themed music during the Changing the Guard ceremony, including tunes from the soundtrack to the film Slumdog Millionaire.

And when guests first arrived they were greeted by the sight of the palace decorated with a peacock - the national bird of India - projected onto the facade of the famous London landmark, an artwork commissioned by the British Council and the Indian High Commission.

Former EastEnders actress Nina Wadia said: "Well it's funny, if you ask my friends if they are Indian anymore they will always say we're British-Asian.

"It shows how we've grown, how our link here is particularly important, so to me it represents who I am in this country and that's why today is particularly special."

Press Association

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