Bollywood braces for wedding of its hottest stars

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MUMBAI - The wedding celebrations of India's hottest Bollywood couple, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai, kick off Wednesday with a pre-marriage party featuring songs, dances and skits performed by close friends and relatives.

The celebrations will culminate in a Hindu wedding on Friday, a union that many say will create Bollywood's ultimate power couple. Rai is a former Miss World and Bachchan is the heir to India's most celebrated film family.

"Abhiash", as the Indian media dubs them, have been likened to Hollywood celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

The traditional pre-wedding party known as the "sangeet" will be held on Wednesday at the Bachchan residence in Mumbai.

The celebrations move on Thursday to Rai's home where the bride's hands will be painted with henna from the western state of Rajasthan, where British actress Elizabeth Hurley married her Indian husband in a Hindu ceremony last month.

Friday's wedding will be a low-key Hindu ceremony attended by a small group of friends and relatives because the groom's octogenarian grandmother is unwell, Indian media reports said.

Rai, 33, and Bachchan, 31 - son of iconic actor Amitabh Bachchan - got engaged in January after a short romance.

The Bachchans are guarding their privacy fiercely and have reportedly asked guests to keep mum about wedding details.

"The Bachchans have asked us not to speak about this wedding," said Bollywood actor Suniel Shetty, an invitee.

The wedding is top news for the celebrity-obsessed Indian media, which has been seeking out every detail from the guest list to the couple's attire and their honeymoon plans.

An invitation to the Bachchan wedding appears to be so coveted that it has split the Indian film industry into haves and have-nots - those invited and those not invited.

Indian media said a noticeable omission from the guest list was Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan with whom the elder Bachchan has a running popularity battle, revealed in their recent veiled digs at each other.

"I have not been invited to the wedding. Regardless, I wish the couple best," Shah Rukh Khan told Mumbai tabloid Mid-day.

Wedding cards, embossed with two entwined As and accompanied by a box of chocolate meringues, have been sent to a select few in the Bachchan inner-circle, including industrialist Anil Ambani and his wife, filmmaker Karan Johar and actor Anupam Kher, The Times of India reported.

The Bachchan residence has been turned into a sort of fortress to keep out unwanted visitors and prying journalists, giving rise to media reports that the exclusive rights to the wedding may have been sold to a foreign media company.

The marriage has also turned into a security headache for the authorities who are posting about 500 policemen to keep thousands of fans at bay.

Rai and Bachchan have worked together on at least five films, and both have been romantically lined in the past to other Bollywood stars. Rai, who has acted in over 40 films, was crowned Miss World in 1994. Bachchan too has acted in about 40 films.

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