Posted Sunday , January 14, 2007 at 23:06
Updated Monday , January 15, 2007 at 13:32
RINGED! Abhishek proposed Aishwarya after the premiere of , and she said yes.
HUNK-Y DORY: Abhishek Bachchan leaves Jalsa for Aishwarya's residence.
Mumbai: After months of speculation, it's finally happened.
Bollywood's most-talked about couple, actors Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan got engaged on Sunday evening in a closely-guarded ceremony.
Abhishek's father and superstar Amitabh Bachchan confirmed the news to CNN-IBN.
The engagement ceremony took place at Bachchan's Mumbai residence - called Jalsa - soon after the couple returned from the premiere of their latest film Guru in Toronto and New York.
Among those present were Amitabh Bachchan, his wife Jaya Bachchan, the family's close friend and Samajwadi Party General Secretary Amar Singh, Aishwarya's parents, and industrialist Anil Ambani with his wife Tina Ambani.
Sources have told CNN-IBN that the couple is expected to tie the knot shortly.
According to a national daily, the tentative dates fixed for the big day are February 19 or March 7.
"The children have decided. We are very happy and thought we should go ahead with the ‘roka’ ceremony. It was held in the evening," the daily quoted Amitabh Bachchan as saying.
It is believed that Abhishek - who will turn 31 next month - proposed 33-year-old Aishwarya after the premiere of Guru in New York and the actress accepted the proposal immediately.
Guru's release on Friday was preceded by weeks of speculation of the actors' budding off-screen romance.
But everyone, including Amitabh Bachchan , had remianed tight-lipped about the much-hyped romance between the two.
"It's up to Abhishek as to whom he would marry and when he would go about it," the Big B had told CNN-IBN in an interview late last year.
It was in November last year that rumours of the couple tying the knot first started doing the rounds, when a garlanded Aishwarya and Abhishek – accompanied by the senior Bachchans – were seen emerging from Varanasi's Sankat Mochan temple.
Soon after the temple visit, speculation was rife that the couple - who have featured in five movies together so far - had got married much earlier at the Meenakshi temple in Madurai.
But now all speculation can be put to rest and the film industry can gear up for what is likely to be perhaps the biggest wedding of Bollywood.
The couple, along with Amitabh, Amar Singh and Amitabh's daughter Shweta Nanda, have now flown to the temple town of Ujjain to take a holy dip.
Movie-mad India waits for big Bollywood
wedding by Penny MacRae
Sun Jan 14, 9:07 PM ET
NEW DELHI (AFP) - They are India's hottest cinema couple and media reports that they may wed are keeping the movie-mad nation on tenterhooks.
The marriage of superstar Aishwarya Rai and heart-throb Abhishek Bachchan, son of screen legend Amitabh Bachchan, would be Bollywood's biggest wedding in years.
"I'm a normal girl. I do believe in the institution of marriage. It'll be a joyous occasion for me and one I'd like to share with everyone," Rai told reporters at the Toronto world premiere of the pair's newest film "Guru" or "Boss" late last week.
"But please wait for the announcement and do not make assumptions," she said after the star pair waved and blew kisses to shrieking fans at the gala event.
The former Miss World frequently spends time with the Bachchan family, considered the "first family of Bollywood", and the entertainment rumour mill has been in overdrive in recent months speculating the stars will tie the knot.
The pair have been dubbed "India's Brangelina" after Hollywood's top couple, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
The green-eyed Rai, who is 33 -- usually considered "over the hill" in India, where most women marry in their early 20s or younger -- and Abhishek, 31, have starred together in a number of major films in the past 12 months.
The latest movie, in which the pair embrace but do not kiss, in line with Bollywood's chaste moral values, tells the tale of an ambitious young villager who rises to become newly independent India's biggest homegrown industrialist.
The film, whose release in Toronto was touted as Bollywood's chance to break through to Western audiences, is reported to be loosely based on entrepreneurial legend Dhirubhai Ambani, who built India's biggest private company, Reliance. But the film-makers have said the tale is fictional.
The media have been enjoying a field day reporting on the matrimonial rumours, saying the designers for the couple's outfits have been chosen and the five-star hotel venue already booked.
Neither the actors nor their families have confirmed or denied any romance.
The Times of India reported last month that "the who's who of tinsel town" had earmarked February 19 in their black books for the pair's wedding and said that a lavish Mumbai hotel had been booked.
"His 32nd year is very auspicious for marriage," numerologist Sanjay Jumaani said. The bearded Abhishek turns 32 next month.
"She (Rai) is very close to the Bachchans and they are definitely getting married," the Times quoted an unidentified actor as saying.
Some newspapers have reported rumours that the pair have already wed.
The raven-haired Rai, who lives with her parents, as do most single women in India, has been linked in the past to other Bollywood actors, including Salman Khan and Vivek Oberoi.
Rumours of the nuptials gained momentum when the pair visited a temple in late November to pray and emerged with marigold garlands around their necks, usually a tell-tale sign of a traditional Hindu engagement.
The prayers at the temple on the banks of the sacred river Ganges were being offered to clear up mismatches in their stars, the media reported, referring to the Indian tradition of matching horoscopes to ensure marital compatibility.
Rai, Abhishek and his parents travelled to the holy Hindu city of Varanasi for the prayers.
"They performed the rituals with great zeal," temple priest Srikant Tripathi said.
Rai had a poorly placed Mars, the media reported, which could have a negative influence on her own and her husband's life. According to Indian astrologers, in the worst cases, those who wed a person with an inauspicious Mars will die an early death.
The Ash-Abhishek love story
They first came together as a couple way back in 2000, with Dhai Akshar Prem Ke -- but at the time, their love lives were on different tracks and Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai were just good friends.
At the time, Abhishek after a few short-lived romances had settled on Karisma Kapoor as his steady; Aishwarya, likewise, was in the throes of her first high-profile romantic involvement, with Salman Khan.
When they first got together professionally, Ash was the high-flyer, having just delivered a huge hit, alongside real life love interest Salman, with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.
Abhishek, by contrast, was struggling to establish a foothold; his performances got occasional positive notice, but try as he would he couldn't get a hit against his name. His involvement with Karisma began while shooting with her for Dharmesh Darshan's Haan Maine Bhi Pyaar Kiya. The romance that blossomed culminated in a formal announcement of their engagement at the JW Marriott, timed to coincide with dad Amitabh's 60th birthday celebrations.
"What better gift to my son than this engagement announcement?" Amitabh told rediff.com in 2002.
"She is my bahu and part of our home. I am very happy for Abhishek and Lolo (Karisma)," the Big B said.
And then things went sour, though none of the involved parties has ever spoken candidly about how, or why.
It was Neetu Singh, Rishi Kapoor's wife and Karisma's aunt by marriage, who dropped the bombshell in January 2003, when she told a newspaper that the engagement was off.
"I know it is off but I don't know the reason," said Singh.
The void left by the reluctance of the principals to speak to the record was filled with rumours. Karisma and her prospective mother in law Jaya Bachchan had, to put it mildly, failed to see eye to eye during the shooting of film critic-turned-director Khalid Mohammad's Fiza, was one explanation.
Others said Karisma's mother Babita did not take kindly to the Bachchans indicating that Karisma should not work after marriage. The edict, Babita supposedly felt, was a bit unfair, since her daughter was at the time flying high, while Abhishek's career seemed one flop away from self-destructing.
By now, Abhishek had struck up a solid friendship with Aishwarya -- whose own love life with Salman Khan was on the rocks. Each day brought with it a fresh story: of an inebriated Khan landing up at her doorstep at some ungodly hour and creating a ruckus; of him making abusive phone calls.
A crisis point was reached with Khan landed up on the sets of Chalte Chalte, and told the film's producer and lead actor Shah Rukh Khan to 'keep away' from his girlfriend.
The two Khans brawled in public; Shah Rukh dumped Aishwarya from the film and brought in Rani Mukerji and, shortly thereafter, Aishwarya dumped Salman Khan from her life.
As 2003 dawned, both Abhishek and Aishwarya were hitting all-time troughs in their lives.
The former was struggling to cope with the disappointment of a broken engagement, coupled with repeated professional failures. Aishwarya, likewise, was battling the fallout of her break-up with Salman Khan -- and also trying to overcome the reluctance of filmmakers who, at the height of her involvement with Salman, had become increasingly wary about casting her in prestigious projects.
In Vivek Oberoi, Ash found solace; the two began dating and Oberoi -- who, Abhishek once suggested during a joint appearance on Koffee with Karan, could learn to talk a little less -- stunned the industry with a hastily summoned press conference in April 2003, where he alleged that Salman Khan had in the course of one night deluged him with 41 calls, all of them abusive and threatening.
Oberoi suggested that Khan was mentally disturbed and needed treatment; he challenged his girlfriend's ex to fisticuffs -- it was large-scale tamasha, of the kind Bollywood loves to showcase in its films.
Abhishek, meanwhile, sought solace with model Dipannita Sharma; the rumour mills also buzzed about a liaison with Rani Mukerji, though neither party would confirm they were seeing each other.
Every good narrative needs a timely plot point -- and in Bollywood-style, the plot point in the Ash-Abhishek story was provided by the foreign-returned friend.
In this case, Rohan Sippy, Abhishek's long-time buddy, who decided to cast him, and Aishwarya, in his directorial debut Kuch Na Kaho.
The film had some great songs and was well shot; Aishwarya and Abhishek looked good together on screen, but that for then was that -- Aishwarya moved on to acting with Abhishek's daddy.
She joined the Big B in the credits of films such as Khakee and Kyon Ho Gaya Na! -- the latter, directed by Vivek Oberoi's childhood friend Samir Karnik.
It looked like Ash was back, at every level. Oberoi was publicly squiring her around; on the professional front, Hollywood appeared to beckon, as she did a well-received appearance in Gurinder Chadha's Bride and Prejudice, was reportedly approached for a Bond project, appeared on TIME magazine's cover as 'The new face of Bollywood', made it to David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey and pretty much every other top show in town.
Abhishek, meanwhile, discovered the advantage of failure -- he was under the radar, no one expected much and when he turned in a more than competent performance as Lallan in Mani Ratnam's Yuva, he blew everyone away.
The unkind section of the industry was still muttering 'fluke' and crediting Abhishek's performance to the skills of the director, when the actor socked in the sucker-punch, with Dhoom.
Through it all, the Ash-Vivek romance blossomed -- or so Vivek said, for Ash never, ever, openly admitted to being romantically involved with him.
He was there at her bedside when she suffered an accident in course of a shoot, he was at her side for awards functions and pretty much everywhere else -- and he was out there in every film magazine, talking of his love and making marriage plans.
The unkind, again, said he should have made good movies instead. Kyon Ho Gaya Na! flopped; Kisna, under the banner of no less than Subhash Ghai, vanished without a trace -- and Vivek Oberoi found his star on the wane.
Around that period -- early to mid-2005 -- Ash went off to Tunisia to shoot for Last Legion, and the physical distance between the two escalated the growing emotional distance.
Meanwhile, the fates seemed to be linking her lot with Abhishek's. There was the Kajra Re song with Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan in Bunty Aur Babli; close on its heels, she signed three high profile movies with Abhishek: Dhoom 2, Guru and Umrao Jaan.
Vivek, around this time, went into overdrive, constantly speaking of his love for Ash and their 'plans' - -until a miffed Ash sent him an SMS, informing him that he did not have proprietorial rights over her life, and that she would chose her own destiny.
Abhishek stepped into the vacuum. Though their togetherness was initially explained by the fact that they were doing all those films together, the industry -- which has a finely honed antenna for such things -- began speaking of the two as an item by early 2006.
Neither actor would confirm there was anything going -- but straws in the wind were there in plenty.
Firstly, in February 2006, when Amitabh's brother Ajitabh Bachchan went to Bangalore with their horoscopes, to meet with astrologer Chandrashekhar Swamy.
Ajitabh confirmed he had made the trip; Swamy for his part said he had looked at the horoscopes and 'if God willed', the wedding would happen.
With the cat well and truly out of the bag, the couple did away with the smoke screens and quite openly sought out each other's company - in April 006 at the IIFA awards in Dubai; during the shooting of Guru when they sneaked off to see Mission Impossible 3 in Chennai's Satyam theatre and, from there, went to a discotheque where they partied all night.
Going out together was one thing; admitting a relationship something else again, especially for Aishwarya, who had by then been burnt at least twice, in full public glare.
"When I get married you all will know," Aishwarya told rediff.com in November, revealing her talent for the perfect non sequitur.
Abhishek meanwhile played the perfect gentleman: he would not address the rumours, he said, because it involved a woman's life.
As the year wound to a close, the couple went into an overdrive of piety, being spotted together at various temples across India.
November 27, 2006 was seminal: On that day, Aishwarya and Abhishek, with Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan and the ubiquitous family friend Amar Singh, arrived in Varanasi for pre-dawn worship at the Sankat Mochan temple.
Though all concerned remained tight-lipped, word was that the religious overdrive was inspired by the Bachchans, who didn't want a repeat of the Karisma Kapoor fiasco, and were determined to omit no ritual to ensure the smooth passage of the relationship.
From that point on, though no one spoke to the record, neither Aishwarya nor the Bachchans took any pains to hide the relationship: the two were seen more often in public, and Aishwarya became a regular at the Bachchan home, or as an integral part of the Bachchans at formal public events.
The principals clearly had dates, and times, chalked out in their minds, but they all did their damndest to make sure there was no premature leak.
Thus, on January 13, the Big B in course of an interaction with a TV channel while Abhishek and Aishwarya were returning from the New York premiere of Guru said his son had not discussed his plans regarding marriage; barely hours later, the suspense was ended with the formal announcement of the engagement.