India is celebrating the birth of a baby to two of its biggest Bollywood stars. Commentator Sandip Roy explains why the birth is making headlines.
Last week, India got the tweet it was holding its breath for: It's a girl.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, the Bollywood actress often called the most beautiful woman in the world, gave birth to a daughter. The proud dad, Abhishek Bachchan, a Bollywood hero in his own right, sent out the first tweet. Followed moments later by his dad, Bollywood's biggest superstar, Amitabh Bachchan.
This is no ordinary family. Amitabh Bachchan has been a huge star since the '70s, first as an angry young man, then as a politician, then as the host of India's version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. His baritone sells everything from hair oil to Pepsi. His wife is a star. His son is a star. And his daughter-in-law Aishwarya is a Miss World who became Bollywood's dream girl.
Translation: This is a baby with some serious pedigree. She's not India's first celebrity baby, but she's India's first bona fide child of the unholy union between social media and celebrity media. Amitabh Bachchan first tweeted the news of his daughter-in-law's pregnancy in June. Since then, each tweet has been obsessively followed and analyzed with more zeal than an Osama bin Laden tape.
But given the media circus throughout the pregnancy, I was surprised that when Baby B landed there was little paparazzi feeding frenzy. So powerful is Bollywood's first family, Indian broadcasters issued their own version of the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not run any story over 90 seconds. Thou shalt not carry any photo of the child, not even cellphone snaps. Thou shalt not do an astrology show about her horoscope.
It was big news earlier this month when a friend spilled the beans that Abhishek wanted a daughter. In India, there's still a huge preference for sons — that's why sex determination is banned. Despite the ban, there are fewer little girls here than little boys, and the numbers keep getting bleaker. It's tempting to think the buzz around one little girl will change this. In a Bollywood film, it might have. But the real world has its own script.
Two days before Baby B landed, I was in Mumbai visiting a friend who lives across the street from the Bachchans. Just tell any taxi driver that, and he'll be able to find my place, he told me. Somehow I managed to hail the only taxi driver in Mumbai who didn't know where the Bachchans lived. Saab, he said, what does it matter where these stars live? What will they do for me?
Now that the newest Bachchan has arrived, I still don't have an answer for him.