In Bangalore, Mallya had come to be seen less and less on the party circuit over the years.
"He was one of the first to host pre-launch parties, which were legendary, and he was definitely one of the biggest celebrities in the 1990s. But the action has shifted to Mumbai and Goa, and these days he seems to be mostly abroad," says fashion designer Prasad Bidappa, a close friend.
In keeping with his interest in fashion, Mallya had also launched the Kingfisher Fashion Awards in 2000, significant at that time because there were not many awards for the fashion fraternity, says Bidappa.
But all of that took a backseat after the launch of the airline. Another Bangalore-based fashion designer and close friend, Manoviraj Khosla, who still designs Kingfisher merchandise and does work for the Kingfisher calendar, says, "I’m sure the crisis has taken a toll on him but it is difficult to say to what extent."
Mallya’s parties, a Mumbai socialite insists, have now moved abroad, to his vineyards in South Africa and his yacht (the Indian Empress) in Monte Carlo.
His yacht party in May was attended by, amongst others, Antonio Banderas and Bernie Ecclestone.
"Despite the crisis," Seth insists, “Mallya hasn't changed one bit. He enjoys his life and is unapologetic about it."
His friends in Mumbai swear by him.
"Mallya is terrific with his friends in terms of time, commitment and affection," says socialite and entrepreneur Queenie Singh. "He remembers your birthday and comes to meet if he is in town. He knows your children, what they do and he asks about them when you meet him." When Singh was opening her jewellery outlet at The Dorchester in London, she asked Mallya to be there. "He took an earlier flight and came straight from the airport," she says. "He never minimises his friends." Shobhaa De, the author, calls Mallya the most intelligent individual she has ever met (Shahrukh Khan comes a close second). "He can never become an untouchable,” she says. "He is way too charismatic, even with his back to the wall."
Image: President and CEO of F1's governing body Bernie Ecclestone, left, and Force India F1 racing team principal Vijay Mallya interact at the 2011 FIA Gala awards ceremony night in Gurgaon, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) west of New Delhi, India, Friday, December 9, 2011.