Aishwarya Rai had five releases last year and despite their mundane box office performance, she still remains among the most admired actresses of Bollywood. Her demand in the market is massive; she gets to endorse a great variety of products ranging from fashion to beauty products to consumer products. In  this chit chat Aishwariya spoke to 'Sakhi' about her mantra of taking the world in her stride by being a successful actress, a happy wife and a popular icon.

Aishwariya Rai Bachhan has flouted a common belief that a Bollywood actress does not have a life span of more than five years in the industry and post marriage they cease to be in demand. She has also belied the general belief that a successful woman does not have a happy family life.

Careful selection of opportunities and their timely utilization, keeping in mind their long term benefits makes a person extraordinary and this quality possessed by Aishwariya forms the basis of her holding a special place in Bollywood.

The initial phase

After bagging the title of Miss World in 1994, it was certain that she had to get into films. Three years hence, in 1997 when she came in Mani Ratnam’s Tamil film, ‘Iruvar’, critics said that she was not being offered Hindi films.

But Aishwariya Rai defended this by saying that she took this decision despite being offered roles by Yash Chopra and Subhash Ghai.
“Yash Chopra and Subhash Ghai wanted to do films with me then but I chose Mani Ratnam’s Tamil film ‘Iruvar’, “she had said.

It was a public perception about me that I was a model, had a beautiful face, was Miss World and was good in dancing. I already had that stardom associated with me before entering the film industry. Just to break those notions linked with me I chose to work with Mani Ratnam. Mani sir had made it clear that Iruvar was not supposed to be my launching film or mere showcasing because I was just a character in the film.

Apart from taking appropriate and intelligent decisions in her reel life, she has also implemented such decisions in her real life. The middle class values she has imbibed or are instilled in her have been influencing her decisions to a great extent. Even now, she considers herself to be a working girl from a middle class family.  She says, “Although I don’t face the same problems which any other middle class girl faces, but looking at a larger picture, my life is not different from the rest of the working women in the country. All working women have some things common between them. The amalgamation of characteristic qualities of a woman, fulfilling the responsibilities of both home and office makes a woman modern and successful.  Today most of the women in the country are moving ahead maintaining this balance.  I am embracing my life with the same zeal.

Family and career-the balancing act

On being asked about her experience in realizing and coordinating the responsibilities of her family and career, Aishwarya starts smiling…and then in a composed manner she tells, “No rule book can be made to define this coordination. Life is full of mysteries and each day can bring in a new surprise for us. Everyday our needs and priorities keep on varying. Anything can happen all of a sudden in the city or family. It is we who have to decide that what is more imperative at that point of time. 

For this apart from getting support from the rest of the family members, husband’s understanding and support is also essential. I’m lucky that I have got such a supportive and an enlightened family. All of us interact with each other on a daily basis. Family for us is vital and sweet. If all of us are in the same city, we do make it a point to have at least one meal daily together.  If someone is at home or else someone is on leave, then rest of us schedule our meetings and programmes in such a manner that we get to spend some quality time together. The best thing is that each member of my family is understanding and accommodative of each other’s needs and requirements.

No regrets for the past

After ‘Devdas’, I have stopped saying that I will take a leave now or I will be resting now. Work is my relaxation. I got married during the shooting of ‘Jodha Akbar’ and ‘Sarkar Raj’. I kept a gap after that. In the interim, Abhishek and I kept meeting at each other at movie sets. For staying together, we didn’t hinder anybody else’s film. But still critics gossiped so much.

During the shooting of ‘Delhi 6’, it was said that because of me, the work got stopped. Both I and Abhishek are actors and we do understand the requirements of the film. But we are also husband and wife!

 My experience says that there is no alternative to hard work. Because we have opted for this field therefore we need to understand the specific needs of a particular time and decide our priorities accordingly. There are so many films that I refused became hits. But there are no qualms. It is important to give time to life as well. 

Career and films…   

Regarding her career and choice of films, Aishwarya says, if I want I can do continuous films with one particular director, or else I can make a jodi with some popular actor but I don’t want to indulge in such things. Today I can proudly say that I have maintained variety in my films. Irrespective of the box office consequences of my films, directors have still given me opportunities to choose my films. Audiences and well wishers have always been with me. With great gusto they have welcomed all my experiments. They have given me the permission and freedom to do contemporary cinema. My audiences, directors and critics feel that even today I can do something new and amaze them.

Being an unusual woman… 

In every film I portray a different character. Nandini in ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’, Megha in ‘Mohobbatein’, Paro in ‘Devdas’, Banodani in ‘Choker Bali’, Mahalaxmi in ‘Khaki’, Amreen in ‘Umrao Jaan’ Sunhari in ‘Dhoom 2’, Sujata in ‘Guru’, Jodha in ‘Jodha Akbar’, Ragini in ‘Raavan’, Sana in ‘Robot’ and recently being Sophia in ‘Guzaarish’,  are all different and independent women. I enjoyed playing these characters on the big screen.  

Aishwarya’s memory astonishes us, because these days there are fewer actresses who tend to remember the name of the characters they have played. This without any doubt puts forth the fact that she has lived the characters she has played.

She says that whenever someone calls me by the name of my onscreen character, it is delightful as it implies that the toil, the labour, the pain taken in playing that character has been awarded.