ONE EVENING IN LATE JUNE, the crowd at Chandigarh’s Elante mall, a 1.15 million-square-foot complex in the centre of the city, which is said to attract more than 35,000 visitors a day, suddenly went wild. It started out as a hum, which continued to build steadily for a few minutes, until it achieved the volume of a plane taking off. I rushed out of a store on the ground floor into the large, marbled atrium, and found myself confronted by a sea of turbans and hands extended aloft, holding mobile phones that struggled to capture the sight before them. “Diljit! Diljit!” the cries ricocheted around the building.
At the centre of the crowd stood Diljit Dosanjh in a crisp white kurta, pyjamas that ended above his ankles, bright pagdi and deck shoes, impervious to the chaos around him. He was surrounded by an entourage of excited men, similarly dressed. The local heartthrob was attending the premiere of his latest movie, Jatt and Juliet 2, at the PVR theatre on the top floor of the mall. His friends were soon riding up and down an escalator (up the right way, and down the wrong) to the cheers of fans. I struggled through the crowd to get to the next floor to catch the screening, for which I had a ticket. Upstairs, a double-ringed barricade of guards watched for gatecrashers and desperate fans.
Elante, whose publicity material bills it as the largest mall in all of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, and Chandigarh, opened this April, and has since given Chandigarh’s thriving marketplaces and favourite recreational spots much to worry about. With its water fountains, landscaped plaza, and a profusion of upmarket restaurants and international brand boutiques, Elante can be said to symbolise everything the city, and Punjab, today aspires to be.