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Ash stands tall in Mangalore
You can't miss it. As you drive from Bajpe airport to Mangalore city, you will see a huge image of Aishwarya Rai to your left (at Kavoor, 12 km from the airport).
Incongruously, it fronts a signage shop -- Shiva Prasad Arts -- a tin-roofed shack where two youngsters, stripped to their vests to battle Mangalore's intense summer heat, are busy with their day's work.
We ask young Kiran Shetty (blue tee shirt) about the poster; he's says it's been around for about three years while the shop's been in business for about five years.
He does not have much to say about Bollywood. Or Abhishek Bachchan. Or the Ash-Abhi wedding. "Does not really make difference to us. It should be causing excitement in Mumbai," he says.
But ask about Aishwarya and a huge smile lights up his face, the words start rolling. "I saw her at the Bunt Sangha at Koloor about two years ago. She was there, Shilpa Shetty was there. They were honouring all the Bunt achievers." The Bunt community is from which Ash, Shilpa and Kiran Shetty hail from.
Ask him about his favourite film stars and he says, "Suniel Shetty, Aishwarya Rai... They're from here. They are our guys."
In case you are wondering at this sudden interest in Mangalore, this is where Ash was born.
And here's the first rumour we encountered since landing here. Apparently, when Ash was in the city a few years ago, she had promised that she would only marry a Bunt. And now that the young lady is going to tie the knot with a Kayasth, some Bunts apparently want to know why she is breaking her word.
Text: Savera R Someshwar in Mangalore | Photograph: Uday Kuckian