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The Rediff Interview / Yateendranath Shetty
Ash is Gullu Aunty
April 23, 2007
At the same time, he is extremely reluctant to talk about her.
"After the wedding was announced," he said, "Everyone from the media came here (Mangalore). When they approached us, we welcomed them to our home and shared information with them. But the information that came out on television was completely distorted and caused a lot of unnecessary trouble and hurt feelings in Bombay."
Eventually, though, he could not contain his pride in his cousin's achievements, and his joy about her wedding to Abhishek Bachchan. An interview with Deputy Managing Editor Savera R Someshwar:
Could you begin by explaining your relationship with Aishwarya Rai?
Aishwarya is my wife's uncle's daughter. I know her from the time she was a child. She is a very simple, nice, well-mannered girl. Quite intelligent. Very good in her studies.
You must have spent quite a lot of time with her, whenever she came here or whenever you came to Mumbai. Could you share those memories with us?
I met her on quite a few occasions -- during the wedding of our family members and other family functions when we used to gather together. She was so good with all our family members.
I am really proud of her good nature and her achievements. Whichever field she has gone into so far -- whether it is modelling or Miss World or films -- she has reached the heights because of her hard work and dedication. She has become so popular and gained such a good name.
All our family members here in Mangalore are proud of this popularity, this success.
Do the younger members of the family feel they should be like her and achieve her kind of success?
Whether elder or younger, all her family members are very happy and proud of her achievements. She has achieved national and international fame. Wherever we go for any functions and whenever we meet our friends and relatives, we feel proud about the way they talk to us about her.
What do they say?
They praise her and the way she had made her success in the field of films and in whichever field she entered. Apart from her inborn beauty, she has achieved this success because of her talent, her dedication and her hard work.
Does she come to Mangalore often?
Not often. She has come for some marriages and some important family occasions. She is quite busy in her profession, so it is not possible for her to visit Mangalore often.
Did she come when she was younger?
She was born in Mangalore. Both my wife and Aishwarya were both in the same house. They are first cousins.
Aishwarya was brought up in Bombay right from childhood.
Did she stay with you when she came to Mangalore?
My wife's family house was there earlier (it has now been razed), she used to stay there. Nowadays, because she is quite busy, she is not able to come often for every occasion.
You have had a very bad experience with the media. Would you like to talk about that?
Yes. When Aishwarya's marriage was fixed with Abhishek, all our family members in Mangalore were very happy. This news (of their relationship) was going on since a long time and people were asking with us about it.
When we received confirmed news from Bombay about this, we were so happy. When the media approached us, we shared the happy occasion with them. But the way some of the media presented this information has hurt us and all our family members.
Thereafter, we thought it is better not respond too much to the media. We have almost completely stopped interacting with the media; we are afraid of saying anything because we don't know how what we say will be presented on television. Whatever has happened has pained us a lot.
Could you tell me some more about Ms Rai -- about some time when all of you went out together or about some wedding or what she enjoys most about being in Mangalore? How she interacts with the family?
Whenever she joined any of our family functions, she was so good, so simple. She was just like the rest of our family members. That's why we feel so close to her. I really appreciate this aspect of her nature -- she is so familiar, so close, so affectionate, so lovable. All her family members are very happy with these aspects of her nature.
What does she call you?
She calls me Anna.
What does she call your wife?
Have you visited her in Mumbai?
Yes, during her brother's wedding about two years ago, we were there for a few days in Bombay.
What do you feel about this match?
See, both Aishwarya and Abhishek have proved their success in the film line. Both are very popular. I feel it is a good match.
As I understand, Abhishek is also a very good mannered and dignified person. He is the son of a great film personality, Amitabh Bachchanji. We are all ardent followers of Amitabh Bachchan. Abhishek's mother Jaya Bachchan is, I believe, a dignified lady. All of us here in Mangalore are happy about the alliance and this marriage.
The Bachchan family is a very respectable family and Amitabh Bachchan is a very highly successful person in his field. More than that, I respect him because he is a very good person.
Are you nervous about meeting the Bachchans?
Why should I be nervous? In my profession (banking), I used to meet so many film personalities when I was in Bombay. Some of the top personalities like Dev Anand and B R Chopra used to come to my office. I met even Rajesh Khanna's family; they used to come to my office in Bombay.
I am not nervous about that; they are all human being like us (laughs).
Do you watch Hindi films?
Very rarely nowadays. I have not seen any Hindi film in the last two years.
So you've not seen Dhoom: 2?
Do you plan to see them?
My family members have all seen them, but I have not seen them so far.
You are not interested in Hindi films?
I don't get much time. Besides, I don't have the patience to a theatre and see a film. I normally watch television at home.
Which Aishwarya films do you like?
In fact, I have not seen any of her films in the theatre. But, from what I observed on television, she has acted very well in Devdas. The way she was dancing with Madhuri -- Madhuri is known to be a very good dancer -- she has proved she is equivalent to Madhuri's dancing calibre.
How do you feel when you see her on screen?
She appears very good. I feel very happy. She has proved her talent and success in some films like Guru and so many other films.
Whenever she appears on television, my children get excited (laughs) and immediately they shout...
What do your children call her?
Her pet name is Guddu?
Gullu. Gullu Aunty. My children call her Gullu Aunty.
What are you going to gift her? Is that a surprise?
More than the gift, of course, our blessing is more valuable.
Photograph: Getty Images