I attained instant celebrity status in my nukkad after interviewing the Ice Maiden, although I do so dislike it when stars show attitude! Aishwarya Rai Bachchan gives me the entire gamut – right from endless phone calls to dealing with a termagant of a hairdresser, to some relentless trudging in the baking heat, before she condescends to sitting for the promised interview.
Aishwarya has chalked up quite a body of work, even so, in spite of a ‘Sarabjeet’ under her belt, she remains in demand more for her looks than her acting skills, although Ms Imperious tells me huffily that “obviously” filmmakers saw the potential in her, else why would they sign on a mere title holder? “I wanted to complete my architecture course, but it all got a bit weird and even my juniors were treating me like a kind of celebrity. Plus, post Miss World, I had already missed a year and a half, so I’d be classed with my juniors. And, along with my colleagues, I’d be wondering if I did well because I really deserved it – or I wasn’t doing well because after all, how can a Beauty Queen have talent?” she muses.
She is looking quite charming in an unassuming brown churidar kameez. When I say this to her, she goes on to tell me that she really is a simple girl at heart; “I am really simple and someone who prefers jeans for informal wear and sarees for formal do’s.”
Now that we’re all friends here, we move on to wolves (in the industry) next. “I’ve never encountered it but then, I do command a certain degree of respect,” she says waspishly, and immediately softens to say: “It’s really sad, it’s a misuse of one’s power and of young girls’ dreams. It’s happening in so many professions but it’s highlighted more so in the glamour business.”
In her movies, she seems to be trying to shed the Goody-Two-Shoes image she has acquired willy-nilly. ‘Dhoom 2’ ‘Mistress of Spices’ and now ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ have some pretty forward scenes from her. In public, she is guarded and gracious and almost never loses her cool, even though mother-in-law Jaya Bachchan famously snapped at a photographer once for daring to call her bahu ‘Ash’ – “is she your friend?” queried Jaya rather rudely. Aishwarya steers clear of anything even remotely sniffing of a controversy and has never ever admitted to her affairs.
However, when I had interviewed her at the height of her relationship with Salman Khan, she uncharacteristically vented steam by saying sarcastically: “I don’t know whether the media loves me or hates me but we do share this amazing chemistry! Salman and I got along right from the outset; he’s someone I’d met even during my modeling days, so I was familiar with him. Things were blown out of proportion even before we got close and now that we have gotten close, it’s like ‘Oh yeah, see, we told you.’ You get to a point where you hesitate to say you’re just friends, because it’s such a cliché- but it’s true. I don’t play up to rumours, I don’t react in a volatile manner. Why can’t people and the media just let us be…..just allow life and time to take its own course,” she said despondently.
Well. I still dunno whether it was my charm or my deodorant. But that was undeniably the first (and among the very few) time(s) that Aishwarya ever spoke about her relationship (s). The above is all I ever allowed myself to print as it seemed to be too intrusive into someone’s personal life when she probably just spoke out spontaneously in an unguarded moment. I remember she rambled on for a bit before suddenly recollecting where she was and with whom… I lifted my hands to show her the recorder had been switched off and the pen capped and got my first genuinely warm smile from her. And feeling the full wattage of that, I understood how the Khans and Bachchans are like putty in her hands.