(2009) Oprah Winfrey
America has Hollywood. Nigeria has Nollywood. But in India, it’s all about Bollywood.
This booming, Hindi-language film industry turns out hundreds of vibrant films and musicals every year. And while many Hollywood celebrities have made names for themselves internationally, it’s Bollywood that boasts the most famous couple in the world—Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan.
Ash and Abhi, as they’re known to their 5 billion fans around the globe, were Bollywood superstars long before they fell in love and got married in April 2007. Abhi, Ash’s leading man, was born into India’s film industry. Both of his parents are famous Bollywood actors, and over the years, he’s starred in more than 40 films.
After being crowned Miss World in 1994, Ash became Bollywood’s breakout star. Since then, this emerald-eyed actress has landed dozens of endorsement deals and starred in more than 40 movies. She reportedly earns more than $15 million per film.
Now, for the first time, Ash and Abhi are sitting down for their first television interview together!
Before they were man and wife, Ash and Abhi were co-stars. After working with Ash in a few films, Abhi says he developed feelings for the actress who’s been called the most beautiful woman in the world.
“I was filming in New York for a movie,” he says. “And I used to stand on the balcony of my hotel room and wish that, ‘One day, wouldn’t it be nice if I was together with her, married.'”
Years later, the co-stars returned to New York City as a couple. They were there for the premiere of Guru, a film they worked on together, but Abhi had something special in store.
“After the premiere, we were back in the hotel,” he says. “So I took her to the very same balcony, and I asked her to marry me.”
After the engagement, Ash and Abhi’s wedding became one of the most anticipated events in India. For months, the media reported on every detail and speculated about the couple’s plans.
Then, in April 2007, the celebration began. “Indian weddings are elaborate,” Abhi says. “As a culture, we like to celebrate everything. … Our weddings go on for sometimes a week, 10 days.”
On the day of the wedding ceremony, thousands of fans filled the streets outside Abhi’s home, hoping to get a glimpse of the Bollywood stars. Once inside, the couple held a private ceremony for family and friends.
Soon after the wedding, Ash says the media started speculating about a possible pregnancy. “I have been proclaimed pregnant already a couple of times. I’m like, ‘Okay, is that a hint?'” she says. “People would be watching every little bulge, and I’m like, “Oh my God. If you’re not in shape, you’re pregnant.”
Sure, they’re rich and famous, but like most Indian couples, they don’t live alone. Ash and Abhi share a home with Abhi’s parents.
“It’s normal,” Ash says. “It’s absolutely natural to us. … I lived with my parents before we got married, so it’s a natural thing.” Abhi says his grandparents also lived with them before they passed away.
This practice is common in many parts of the world. “It’s normal to bring the parents in, to have respect for the elders,” Oprah says. “To have your elders to be a part of your life forever.”
Though they’re in their 30s, Ash and Abhi also have to abide by a few household rules. “One of the rules in the house set by Mom is if we’re all in the city, we have to have one meal a day together,” Ash says.
Cultural differences also find their way onto the big screen.
“For example, boy meets girl, they fall in love, they want to express their love for each other. So in the West, they would kiss, and they’re in love. In India, we have a song,” Abhi says. “You have this intimate moment, and suddenly—snap, cut—you’re in the mountains singing and dancing!”
“It’s so much fun,” Ash says.
Hollywood and Bollywood also operate on different production schedules. Most American actors make one or two films a year, while Bollywood stars appear in five or six movies a year. “We’re both working on, I think, four films currently,” Abhi says. “So we’re always busy.”
When they do have a moment to themselves, Ash and Abhi don’t travel to exotic locations or hit Mumbai’s hottest clubs. Instead, they spend time at home. “It’s just normal time,” Ash says. “We like to hang at home, really spend time with each other, with family and friends.”