Interview: Aishwarya Rai

By Subhash K. Jha, IANS

imageMumbai, March 28 (IANS) Substance is what Aishwarya Rai is looking for in her twin roles as actress and Bollywood's brand ambassador to the West, having just wrapped most of the shooting for Paul Berges' "Mistress Of Spices" in Britain.

"Can you imagine? We've almost finished the entire shooting in just about a month. Now we shoot for a week in San Francisco and the film is ready to roll out," Aishwarya Rai told IANS in an interview from London.

She has seldom sounded happier.

After completing "Mistress..." in San Francisco, Aishwarya will return to London, from where she'll go to either Prague or Paris for an L'Oreal ad campaign. She returns to India in April.

"Gurinder Chadha's unit is like family after 'Bride And Prejudice'. Her husband Paul was with us right through the other film, and so was Santosh Sivan, who has always shot me like a dream right from my first film 'Iruvar' (in Tamil)," Aishwarya said.

"The rest of the unit is English. When we all packed up to proceed to the US we didn't feel like we had shot a movie. It was a picnic, honestly!

"And before you ask how I compare Gurinder and her husband as directors, (let me say) I don't! They are two individuals with two completely different visions.

"I mean 'Mistress' is as different from 'Bride' as 'Devdas' from 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam'.

"'Mistress' tackles the age-old relationship between the Indian woman and spices." And Aishwarya is all gung-ho about her character in the film.

"The aromas from my mother's kitchen came alive in the film. Paul has gone to great lengths to connect the world of spices with the world of human perceptions. Is it a very sensuous film? I don't know! 'Mistress' tickles the palate," she revealed.

"Lalita in 'Bride' and Tilo in 'Mistress' are two different individuals. I worked really hard on Tilo's look. There was no time to prepare, no rehearsals. We had to do it on our own.

"(Tilo's) clothes, saris, attitude...they're all mine. Of course, Gurinder and Paul had their own idea of the way she needed to be projected and I respected that. I'm always a director's actress."

Last month, Aishwarya was to present a trophy at the Oscars but she wasn't able to do so due to lack of time in the midst of shooting.

"It was a big honour. Much as we tried, there was no way we could squeeze in the Oscars. I did make an effort to be in Los Angeles. But never mind! I'm sure I'll get another opportunity," she said, revelling in the attention she has garnered for "Bride..." in the US.

About the bashing the film and she got back home, there is instant defence. "We all know that was pre-meditated.

"After seeing the response in the US, I feel like I'm back to where I was when I was starting out as Miss World 10 years ago...the same attention, the unbiased critical overview. It feels wonderful and comforting.

"Even before 'Bride' they had noticed me as an actress in 'Devdas', 'Kuch Na Kaho', 'Raincoat' and 'Chokher Bali'. So 'Bride' has been a kind of culmination of the journey that began in Cannes when Sanjay Bhansali, Shah Rukh and I took 'Devdas' there.

"When I landed (in the US) for the promotion of 'Bride' everything happened so quickly. I was on David Letterman's show and then I was in Chicago recording for Oprah. They wrote about my clothes and my appearance, but not my giggling which the Indian press seems to be obsessed with.

"Honestly, this is how I've been all along," she said, justifying her titter bouts. "It isn't an overnight affectation acquired as part of my image. Please, grant me more substance than that!"

And it is just substance that she's looking for as she goes international.

Does it feel good to be carrying Bollywood to the West?

"It sure does! But wasn't I doing that all along even when I was a model and Miss World," asked Aishwarya.