WASHINGTON, DC: An American spoof site, which reported that film star Aishwarya Rai had died in a car accident, sent Indians in the US into a tizzy on Wednesday. This page “published” a “breaking story” on May 24, attributed to a news agency called Global Associated News, stating that Rai had been driving a friend’s vehicle on Interstate 80 in the US when the accident happened.
The story reported that the impact of the accident caused the to car roll several times, and that the actor was killed on the spot. It said, “The vehicle was believed to have been travelling at 95 miles per hour in a 55mph zone at the time of the accident. Witnesses have stated that Aishwarya Rai’s car crossed the double lines several times prior to the accident and hit the centre lane divider causing the vehicle to flip and roll.”
Several news media outlets in New York City — which has a significant Indian population — were flooded with emails and calls seeking confirmation of the “horrific news item”.
The report also suggested that Rai might have been drunk. “Toxicology tests will be performed to determine whether she was driving under the influence,” it said.
The report added that “memorial services for Aishwarya Rai have not yet been announced. The service is expected to be a closed casket funeral due to the severe head trauma.”
The “news report” was a result of a clever piece of software on a site called www.fakeawish.com meant for surprising friends with practical jokes. The site has developed a template for “news reports” and other pranks that help you pull a fast one on others by just replacing names. For instance, you can replace Rai’s name with another star’s, and start a new rumour.
A thread on an Indian discussion board run on www.sajha.com (a mischievous variation of saja.com, website of the New York-based South Asian Journalists’ Association) started the rumour mills going with several Indians putting forth their views on the star’s “death”. A user by the name of IndisGuise wrote: “This is not funny. It has not been long since I had to bear the horrendous heartache of being dumped yet again by my lovely, and I am not at all ready to hear this heart-wrenching propaganda of my adored ceasing to be.”
“Aishwarya is currently in Chennai shooting for a film called Guru,” Hari Singh, Rai’s business manager, told DNA.