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Last Updated: Friday, 20 April 2007, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
India's guest list guessing game
By Sunil Raman
BBC News, Delhi

Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan's wedding
Guests gather for Rai and Bachchan's wedding
Indian film superstars Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan have married in a private ceremony in Mumbai (Bombay) - and the guest list has sparked almost as much interest as the ceremony itself.

The bride is India's internationally acclaimed face, the face of L'Oreal and a former Miss World.

The bridegroom is a leading movie-star whose father, often compared with Al Pacino is the most well-known film star of India.

When the two get married, anyone connected with the world's biggest film industry would want to be on the invite list.

With no formal list of invitees released to the press, TV reporters and even business dailies were involved in a guessing game.

The Times of India's supplement carried a headline: "This do is by invitation only: Those who will be there and those not invited."

Some omissions have been noted with interest. When word spread that the reigning star of Bollywood, superstar Shahrukh Khan, had been given a miss along with the other two leading Khans, Salman and Aamir, it led to some gossip and speculation.

While Shahrukh is seen as a successor of Amitabh Bachchan and hence a rival, Salman, who was earlier romantically linked with Aishwarya and Aamir, remains aloof.

Nor do leading actresses like Rani Mukherjee, Karishma and Kareena Kapoor figure in the list.

Stars of yesteryear

And as far as the leading stars of yesteryear go, the Bachchans have given most of them a miss.

Mumbai-based author and film columnist Mayank Shekhar says Bachchan senior has ensured the guest list reflects the current cream of Bollywood, with top directors like Yash Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Karan Johar and Ram Gopal Verma invited to the private wedding.

All these film-makers have either directed the Bachchans or plan to cast father, son and daughter-in-law in what would be seen as a coup.

In politics, it is interesting how Bachchan has managed to balance the extreme right with left-of-centre in his guest list.

Right-wing leader Bal Thackeray finds his name on the guest list alongside Maharashtra state chief minister and Congress leader Vilasrao Deshmukh.

'Competitors miss out'

Industrialists like the Mumbai-based Tatas and Birlas will have to console themselves by watching on TV.

Bachchan and Rai
Bachchan and Rai are two of India's biggest stars
But controversial industrialist Anil Ambani - who, along with Bachchan is linked to a socialist party - will witness the Hindu wedding.

"They have ensured that the competitors are left out," says Mayank Shekhar.

The guest list has ignored many of the top politicians in the country.

The head of the ruling Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, is conspicuous by her absence, reflective of the chill which has set in between her and the Bachchans, two decades after Amitabh Bachchan was elected to parliament on a Congress ticket.

These days, the Bachchans are close to the socialists who rule India's most populous state of Uttar Pradesh.

Naturally those left out of this wedding celebration are embittered. But, given the influence wielded by the Bachchan family no one was prepared to record their disappointment.

Feeding frenzy

Interestingly, most Bollywood celebrities the BBC contacted refused even to comment on the wedding.

Is this simply a media feeding frenzy? The Economic Times' national editor, MK Venu - whose own front page features a story about the probable guest list - says such a response is is sparked from the rise in celebrity culture.

"No such interest was shown in the past when leading stars of the day got married," he says.

"But today it is television that is driving the agenda of many newspapers. There is enormous pressure on newspapers to follow television stories."

The Bachchan guest list will continue to evoke interest even after the two movie stars tie the knot. Some who did not get invited preferred to say it was no big deal.

But those who did manage to see India's leading Bollywood family at close quarters termed it as "sour grapes".

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