By Shail Kumar Singh/ AFP
Mumbai : Bollywood’s hottest stars Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan begin their three-day wedding ceremony on 18 April, with hundreds of policemen on standby to keep media and fans away.
Two seaside residences in Mumbai’s upscale northern suburbs have been turned into fortresses for the marriage of the 33-year-old Rai, a former Miss World, and Bachchan, the 32-year-old son of screen legend Amitabh Bachchan.
A legion of private security guards have been manning the gates of both homes, with entry allowed only to workers and personnel who have been given bar-coded passes and must go through metal detectors.
Only 100 guests have been invited to the wedding, and more than 500 policemen are expected to be on hand to keep out gatecrashers.
Huge efforts have been made to shut out the media, with the Bachchans requesting owners of neighbouring buildings not to allow photographers and television crews to shoot from roofs and balconies, reports said.
The festivities were to begin on 18 April with the traditional sangeet, or music ceremony, during which relatives of the couple sing and dance.
The henna ceremony -- during which the bride’s hands are painted -- will be held at Rai’s house on 19 April.The wedding ends on 20 April with a Hindu ceremony and a traditional parting of the bride from her parents.
Bollywood movies have a huge following around the world, especially in countries with a large Indian diaspora such as Britain, Malaysia, Singapore and South Africa.
The pair known here as “Abhiash” -- India’s answer to Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s “Brangelina” -- were engaged in January.
Media reports said that jewellery for Rai had been specially brought from the eastern city of Kolkata, while the henna came from the western desert state of Rajasthan.
The bride will wear silk saris from the city of Varanasi, in northern Uttar Pradesh state.The guest list includes major Bollywood players including director Yash Chopra and filmmaker Karan Johar, as well as industrialist Anil Ambani -- whose father built the country’s biggest listed firm, Reliance Industries.
But Bollywood heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan and Rai’s ex-boyfriend, actor Salman Khan, have not been invited.
The country’s powerful Gandhi family, led by ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, had been invited but is unlikely to attend, having reportedly fallen out with the Bachchans over politics, reports said.