Opinion
12:01 am
Mon November 21, 2011

Bringing A Bollywood Celebre-Baby Into The World

Originally published on Mon November 21, 2011 12:00 pm

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.

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Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

India's biggest celebrity is just a few days old - a tiny crown princess of Bollywood royalty. She has no name yet, but her dad is asking for suggestions; names beginning with the letter A preferred. Commentator Sandip Roy explains why her birth made headlines.

SANDIP ROY, BYLINE: Last week, India got the tweet it was holding its breath for. It's a girl. Aishwariya 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 a politician, then 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 daughter-in-law Aishwariya 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 shall not run any story over 90 seconds. Thou shall not carry any photo of the child, not even cell phone snaps. Thou shall 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 lived 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.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing in foreign language)

WERTHEIMER: Commentator Sandip Roy is culture editor of FirstPost.com. He's based in Calcutta. You can comment on his essay on the Opinion page at NPR.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing in foreign language)

WERTHEIMER: It's NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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