Bollywood couple visit temple, spark marriage talk


sarNie Hatchling
Mon Nov 27, 9:31 AM ET

A late-night, hush-hush visit to a temple by Bollywood stars Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai has sparked talk of a wedding, but the priest denied the ceremonies were marital.

Bachchan, son of Indian film legend Amitabh Bachchan, and former Miss World Rai, whose friendship has long been under media scrutiny for signs of romance, held pre-dawn prayers in Varanasi, one of Hinduism's holiest cities.

Bachchan senior, his wife Jaya and other family members were also present at the ceremonies, held on Monday at 3 a.m.

The star family checked into a Varanasi hotel late on Sunday amid tight security and left for the prayers before dawn.

Footage by television crews who managed to get close to them showed a bleary-eyed Aishwarya and Abhishek with a police escort.
None of the party spoke to the media but their family priest said the prayers were held to mark the birth anniversary of Amitabh's deceased father.

When reporters asked why Rai was there although she was not a member of the Bachchan family, the priest said: "I don't know."

This failed to deter news channels which broadcast stories speculating that marriage was on the cards for the star couple.

After the rituals, Abhishek and Aishwarya were scheduled to leave for Agra, the northern city home to the Taj Mahal, the 17th century white-marble monument to love.

"I think the media is really going on an overdrive," said Bollywood trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

"Yes, Aishwarya is a friend of the Bachchans and of Abhishek in particular. Why should we add anything more to it?"

The editor of a leading film magazine, who declined to be named, said Aishwarya's decision to be part of an "intimate Bachchan family function" was an important indicator.

"I think she is trying to make a public statement that they (Aishwarya and Abhishek) are serious but as far as marriage is concerned, I don't think we should talk about it until they announce it," he said.