x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

It's a girl! Bachchan baby frenzy goes into overdrive

The birth to Bollywood's Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and her husband Abhishek Bachchan is the climax of months of breathless media - and public - anticipation.

The actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and her fellow-star husband Abhishek Bachchan now have a daughter. AFP
The actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and her fellow-star husband Abhishek Bachchan now have a daughter. AFP

Who does the baby look like - the mother or father? This question topped all others yesterday after the birth of the Bachchan baby girl in a suburban Mumbai hospital, feeding into the media frenzy that has followed Bollywood's first family for months in breathless anticipation of the new arrival.

When Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan are the parents and one set of grandparents is the veteran actress Jaya and the Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, the hoopla is understandable. That's the verdict of Dubai fans and movie trade analysts, anyway.

The news was first announced to the world by the proud father Abhishek who tweeted "It's a girl!" Minutes later, the Amitabh Bachchan shot out a tweet: "I am dada [grandfather] to the cutest baby girl." He followed this up saying he was ecstatic and thanking fans for their wishes. Soon, #BabyB was trending on Twitter.

Rai's pregnancy has generated tremendous media interest with newspapers and television stations closely tracking her admission to Mumbai's Seven Hills Hospital on Tuesday.

"This baby is already a celebrity; she has been one even before she came into the world," said Vajir Shah, the editor of Box Office India magazine.

"The Bachchans have ruled the film industry, so it's only natural that a child born to them will make people turn on the news."

Others believed the continual focus was overdone. "Yes, people are keen on knowing if it's a boy or a girl and what the baby looks like," said Komal Nahata, a trade analyst and the editor of Film Information. "But it's very silly to hear news channels ask whether the child will be as beautiful as the mother. There has to be some restraint. For the past 15 days, the news has been 'When will it happen? Will it be today? Will it be tomorrow?'"

Rai, 38, is one of India's most recognisable faces overseas. She won the Miss World title in 1994 and later made her Bollywood debut. Apart from more than 42 Hindi-language movies, she also bagged the role of a jewel thief two years ago in Steve Martin's The Pink Panther 2.

The Bollywood beauty's Hollywood movies include the 2004 romantic film Bride and Prejudice and the 2007 action adventure The Last Legion.

Often called "the most beautiful woman in the world", she had been due to start filming this year for a new project, but that was put on hold because of the pregnancy.

Rai also made news as the first Indian actress invited to the Cannes jury in 2003. She is the face of the cosmetics company L'Oreal and the brand ambassador of Longines watches.

Her popularity added to the obsession with her pregnancy, with television channels stationed outside the Bachchan family home in Mumbai's Juhu area attempting to capture any footage of the mother-to-be during a baby shower a month ago.

Magazines and television stations earlier ran pictures of Rai in loosely-fitted T-shirts with captions that varied between "Aishwarya shows off baby bump" and "Aishwarya hides baby bump".

In Dubai, too, Rai's fans say they are following media coverage.

"It's not earth-shattering news, but it's fun to know that Aishwarya has a baby girl," said Deepika Malhotra, a Dubai college student.

"I followed the tweets and was checking for TV coverage to see if anyone has a first picture of the baby. It's just good fun to watch all this."

Before Rai's delivery, Indian television broadcasters reportedly agreed unprecedented privacy measures. The Broadcast Editors' Association circulated a 10-point guideline earlier this month aiming to avoid the media circus that followed the Rai-Bachchan wedding in April 2007.

The guidelines also asked media outlets not to feature astrology stories related to the birth, often popular in India.

While several broadcasters have attempted to rein in coverage, photographers and reporters are camped outside the hospital and details of the tight security cover inside the hospital have been reported.

However, for avid Bachchan watchers, the news is likely to come from the family via Twitter.

This is where Bachchan senior announced that his son and daughter-in-law would soon be parents.

On June 21, he tweeted, "News news news!! I am going to become a grandfather ... Aishwarya expecting. So happy and thrilled!!!"

As for whether the baby has Rai's grey-green eyes and Abhishek's nose? Well, those photographs have not leaked out, yet.