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This fascinating personal intrigue was to have been the basis of a new film, Indian Summer, starring Hugh Grant and Cate Blanchett as Lord and Lady Mountbatten.As for the handsome Nehru, rumour has it he was to be played by Irrfan Khan, star of the hugely successful Slumdog Millionaire.

Hitherto, those who know the truth about the relationship between Nehru and Lady Mountbatten (including Mountbatten's two daughters) have always insisted the couple never consummated their great love, and that it was more spiritual than physical. Certainly, there are aspects of Lady Mountbatten's early life that will shock India's ruling elite, who even today do not allow their Bollywood stars to kiss on screen.

The spoiled favourite granddaughter of a Jewish financier close to the royals, Edwina Ashley was the richest and most glamorous deb of her time.

In 1922, she married the handsome, though impoverished, 21-year- old Lord Louis Mountbatten.

'At the stroke of the midnight hour when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.' Those powerful words, memorable to everyone who loves India, were uttered by the father of the modern nation, Jawaharlal Nehru, when the country became independent more than 60 years ago.

Behind this famous 'tryst with destiny' speech lay a deeply personal fight to escape the domination of the British Raj, a struggle all the more meaningful because of Nehru's private life.

For the handsome widower had formed a more than usually deep bond with, of all people, the beautiful wife of the chief representative of the occupying power, Edwina, Lady Mountbatten.

If you came across their romance in a novel, you would dismiss it instantly as fiction.

But the fact is the couple shared an extraordinary love.

Their deep attachment lasted from the moment they met in 1947 in New Delhi until the day Edwina died 13 years later.

It was such a meaningful relationship that even Lord Mountbatten himself found it best to turn a blind eye.

Perhaps he even encouraged it, so that he could benefit from any insight into the Indian mind that his wife could pass him at this pivotal time in their history.