(2003) ‘She is a big star; I’m just starting’ Aditya Rai
What is an engineer in the merchant navy doing in films? If he happens to be the brother of someone called Aishwarya Rai, it figures. Aditya Rai, older brother of the Bollywood heartthrob, is co-producer of Dil Ka Rishta, which releases on Friday, January 17. Arjun Rampal, Aishwarya Rai in Dil Ka Rishta
And he is anxious.
“Have we managed to create a buzz about the film?” he asks. “There is a story doing the rounds that most films are remakes or inspired from earlier films. Dil Ka Rishta is completely original and is meant for a mature, understanding audience. It may not start with a bang, but I’m confident it will grow on the audience,” he says.
High on Aditya’s agenda is maintaining a professional atmosphere while giving interviews, a trend that began during the making of the film. A bit tough when the female lead is your kid sister and the writer is your mother. But for Aditya, Mother Vrinda is Mrs Rai; sister Aishwarya is ‘she.’
The transformation from Aditya the seaman to the filmman began some time in 2000 when, after sailing for five years, he came to Mumbai for an exam. “I had time on my hands while studying for an exam. I used to go around studios accompanying her [Aishwarya] and got keenly interested. I soaked in the atmosphere and observed the workings of a film set. The more I watched, the more I got interested,” he says.
During one of those visits, he met Shabbir Boxwala, who had worked with Rajiv Rai on films like Gupt and Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat. A few months later, the two teamed up with restaurateur Suresh Bhandary to form the production company Target Films and launched Dil Ka Rishta.
Wouldn’t an apprenticeship under an established producer have been more prudent? “It is better,” he acknowledges, “when one learns the nitty gritty by assisting someone, but Dil Ka Rishta was a huge learning experience. It felt strange to be student and manager simultaneously.”
Aditya feels his engineering and shipping experiences helped him plan the shooting and finances. “The merchant navy teaches you to be extremely disciplined. That gave me confidence. There were some very stressful moments, but yes, as I look back, it was a great experience,” he says.
Arjun Rampal, Aishwarya Rai in Dil Ka Rishta
Was it his decision to become producer or did Aishwarya moot the idea to him? “Dil Ka Rishta is very close to my family. I was interested in joining the industry, but she cautioned me it was not an easy place to work, and that the work would not be a bed of roses.”
About working with his sister in Dil Ka Rishta, he says, “She is very professional and would not like if other producers or directors start feeling she is not doing justice to their films as she is working for her brother. We want to avoid that.”
The 32 year old seems comfortable being lesser known of the two siblings. “Even as a child, she was so cute. She always got more attention. I resented it at times, but it was healthy like most sibling rivalries,” he confesses, adding, “Now things are different. She is a huge star and may soon work in Hollywood, while I am starting in the industry. I am okay with it.”
He is definitely not okay with producers, scriptwriters and sundry trying to get to Aishwarya through him. “I am not new to this. At school and college, strangers wanted to get to know Aishwarya by becoming friends with me. Since I am now part of the industry, people pester me with all kinds of demands,” he says in exasperation.
Even so, he is candid enough to admit that doors have opened for him because of Aishwarya. “I have an advantage. I have access to people who would not have met me if I had been just another producer.”