Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai may have just married into Indian cinema's most powerful acting dynasty, but she seems unfazed by her illustrious in-laws, saying they are just "family to me."
Rai, one of only a handful of Bollywood stars with crossover appeal thanks to films such as "Bride And Prejudice," married fellow star Abhishek Bachchan in April, creating what Indian media have dubbed the "ultimate power couple." Bachchan is the son of Amitabh Bachchan, the godfather of Indian cinema who was voted biggest star of the millennium in a 1999 BBC poll, beating Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe.
The newlyweds are widely known as "Abhiash," an amalgam of their names which echoes the "Brangelina" nickname of their closest Hollywood equivalents, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Rai spoke to AFP Saturday at Leeds Metropolitan University, north England where her father-in-law, actress Shabana Azmi and producer/director Yash Chopra received honorary degrees during the International Indian Film Academy Awards.
Asked how it feels being part of such a famous family, she laughed, cast a glimpse towards her nearby husband and said: "It's all great -- well, they're family to me and that's what makes it most special."
The emerald-eyed former Miss World also spoke of her excitement at the "Unforgettable" world tour, kicking off in April 2008, when she will appear on stage with Bachchan father and son for the first time."I've been on world tours before which are always a fantastic experience because that's your opportunity to really interact with your wellwishers, fans, world over in person," she said.
"It's great fun, we have a blast and this time it will be definitely unforgettable to me, literally too, because I'm going to be with my loved ones and with the fantastic groups that we tour with." After a successful modelling career, Rai built her reputation as an actress in Bollywood films such as "Devdas" but has also starred in more and more western projects.
Movies such as 2004's "Bride And Prejudice," a Bollywood-tinged take on Jane Austen's "Pride And Prejudice" and this year's "Provoked," about a woman who murders her abusive husband, have helped broaden her fan base beyond Bollywood. In 2004, she was named one of the world's top 100 artists and entertainers by Time magazine and there is even a waxwork of her at Madame Tussauds in London.This year's "The Last Legion," a Roman epic which sees her starring alongside Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley, should raise her profile still further.
Rai has no complaints about the warmth of the reception she has received during the IIFAs in Britain, insisting that the Bollywood film industry here is booming."It's wonderful so far, the people here have been really, really warm and affectionate and we're enjoying the welcome," she said.
"The fact is that the film industry enjoys incredible support already in this country ... actually we really do enjoy a fantastic support, a great audience and a very, very comfortable place here."Rai was nominated for the best actress award at the IIFA awards Saturday night for the hit action thriller "Dhoom 2," which also stars her husband. But she lost out to Rani Mukherjee in "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna."