Close encounter with AISHWARYA RAI

Hmm. The Ice Queen. The first thing my daughters wanted to know after I came back from the interview was – does she really have green eyes? Yes, she really does. What my ‘new’ friends (!) and neighbours wanted to know is – is she really a fragile, ethereal perfect beauty? Yes, she really is.

I attained instant celebrity status in my neighbourhood after interviewing Ms Rai, as Madame likes to be called 😉 However, I have come away with a mixed bag of feelings. Yes, she is undeniably beautiful, but I wouldn’t know how much of that is natural beauty not having seen her without flawless make-up on; to my mind, ‘real’ beauties are Jayaprada, Hema Malini and Sridevi. The other thing is, she has this most godawful titter like the whinny of a horse, a most unlikely sound emanating from this porcelain beauty, and this irritating what-passes-for-a-giggle punctuates her conversation ever so often 🙁

Also, I do so dislike it when stars show attitude! Aishwarya 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 Andhra heat, before she condescends to sitting beneath an umbrella (it’s noon time and the shot is being set up) for the promised interview.

We start off with Ms Imperious telling me that “obviously” filmmakers saw the potential in her else why would they sign on a mere title holder?! Aishwarya had been receiving modeling offers even as a child, but she decided she wanted to complete her architecture course before venturing into the glamour world. However, post the Miss India and then Miss World titles, she says it all got a bit weird and she wasn’t really a normal student anymore, since even her juniors treated her like a kind of celebrity. “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. “So I decided to take another year out of my life and try films, and I think I started with the best – Mani Ratnam.”

Bearing in mind that this interview was happening soon after the release of ‘Taal’ and figuring she’d played me for patsy long enough, I casually hit her with a controversial aside by asking if she was apparently miffed off with Subhash Ghai because the publicity hoardings for the movie had her in skin coloured leotards. Immediately and visibly, the ice begins to thaw and she looks at me with new respect as she dabs off the perspiration from her face. How did you know about this, she demands to know, and I manage to look suitably coy. “I’ve only spoken to Subhashji about this, that too in his office,’ she says wonderingly. “Well, it was nothing to make an issue about; there was an option of four colours – burgundy, white, blue and tan – and, while most colours suit me, we had to decide what looked best against a black backdrop. I was taken aback because it was meant to be any of the other colours (besides the tan),” she ends diplomatically.

Speaking of dresses, she looks quite charming in an unassuming brown churidar kameez. She goes on to tell me that she really is a simple girl at heart, who prefers jeans for informal wear and sarees for formal do’s. Hmm. Seeing some of the fashion disasters she wears at Cannes and elsewhere to impress the western world, wish she’d remember this ‘simple’ side of hers more often and stick to sarees which make her look more regal.

Now that we’re all friends here 🙂 we move on wolves next. Is the industry really full of them? “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.”

Right, something’s bitten her now, and she suddenly goes off into a rant about the media – “I don’ know whether the media loves me or hates me but we do share this amazing chemistry!” she says sarcastically. I’m sitting there wondering what the hell hit me; if these lovely people wouldn’t stick their their toes in muddy waters we wouldn’t have something to write about now, would we?! And so, lost in my own injured musings, I almost miss the part where her voice drops and she’s speaking about HIM! “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 says despondently, looking like a wilting flower.

Well. I dunno whether it’s my charm or my deodarant. But this is undeniably the first (and, if not last then among the very few) times, that Aishwarya ever spoke about her relationship (s). This is all I ever allowed myself to print as it seemed to be too intrusive into someone’s personal life and who’s probably spoken out spontaneously in an unguarded moment. I close my pad and switch off my dictaphone…she rambles on for a bit and suddenly seems to recollect where she is and with whom. She looks up swiftly and I lift my hands to show nada, zilch and I get my first warm smile from her – and the afternoon suddenly looks sunnier 🙂

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