(2006) Aishwarya in action
After Raincoat and Chokher Bali Aishwarya has continued her adventure with deglamourised and realistic roles with Provoked. Based on the life of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, a Punjabi woman who got married to an Indian in London, only to live a life of torture and abuse, Provoked has Aishwarya playing the role of the protagonist, Kiranjit. The movie will be premiered in Cannes in May this year.
An accidental meeting with the director of the film Jagmohan Mundra landed Aishwarya in the role. Moved by the story of Provoked Ash expressed her desire to be part of the film, the only condition being that the film should be wrapped up in six-weeks. And as per her request, the film was shot in two months (May-June) in a start-to-finish schedule in London.
So what was it that moved Aishwarya into doing the film? In her own words the beauty queen reveals, “What I find especially interesting is, eventually the woman finds justice within her horrific circumstances. I play the central character to give a known face to the woman’s plight. It’s a role that requires me to go through many shades. From hurt-shock-anger to a tentative sense of vindication. This is actually the first time I’m playing a real-life character, so you can imagine my excitement and nervousness.”
Ash’s choice of this role has not escaped the most obvious comparison. Playing the role of an abused woman has lead many to think about Aishwarya’s own experience with an abusive relationship. The actress however, has been quick to deny any such thing.
Now whether Aishwarya does justice to the role or not is something you’ll have to wait and watch. But both the director and her father are truly impressed by her performance. Aishwarya’s father who was shown the movie in a special screening was so taken up by her acting that he even forgot that he was watching his daughter.
Well, it was definitely not an easy role to essay. As mentioned before, the film deals with the true story of Kiranjit Ahluwalia. Kiranjit married Deepak Ahluwalia and moved to London. From then began a life of violence and humiliation. Two days after the marriage itself, Kiranjit was subject to all kinds of physical and sexual abuse which continued for 10 long years. Finally driven to the edge, this mother of two set fire to her sleeping husband and killed him. But her struggles were far from over. Sentenced for life, Kiranjit had to fight another legal battle to force the court to take a sympathetic view of her situation. And finally in 1992 she finally made English legal history when her sentence was reduced to the mandatory three-and-half years for manslaughter. A landmark case, this proved as a blessing for the scores of abused British wives.
Through her autobiography Circle of Light which Kiranjit co-wrote with Rahila Gupta, she told the world about her story. Provoked too is based on the book and Rahila has co-scripted the film as well. It was the book which got Jugmohan Mundra interested in making the film. Provoked is the third film in his trilogy on hard-hitting movies about traumatized women, the first two being Kamla and Bawander. Often labeled as a soft-porn filmmaker for the adult movies he made in US, these movies, for Jagmohan act as a proof of his skill as a serious filmmaker.
Apart from Aishwarya the film also stars Nandita Das, Naveen Andrews and Miranda Richardson. Nandita who has worked with Mundra before on Bawander was earlier reluctant to do this movie, thinking that he won’t be able to do justice to it. But Mundra convinced Nandita and got her to play the role of Radha Dalal, as chain-smoking hard-hitting social activist who helps Aishwarya in her battle. Naveen Andrews plays the abusive Deepak Ahluwalia while Miranda Richardson is Veronica Scott, one of Kiranjit’s cellmates, who gets her estranged step-brother, Edmund Foster, to take up Kiranjit’s case.
All the film’s characters spot the 1970s look but in a deglamourised and realistic style. Aishwarya wears a salwar kameez with a chuda for her wedding.
But there has been no complete make-over for Ash who has retained her original look. Ash explains, “A lot of people believe that an actor must look like the person she’s enacting. But I think it’s far more important to `feel’ like Kiranjit Ahluwalia than to look like her.” As for her wardrobe for the movie, it has been designed by one of her favourite designers Neeta Lulla who had received a lot of flack for the clothes she had picked for Ash’s Cannes visit. Let’s see what she has given her valued client this time.
Provoked too has not been without its fare share of controversies. From rumours about how Mallika Sherawat was initially approached for the role to the issue about hurting Sikh sentiments, the cast and crew of Provoked had to deal with it all. Jagmohan Mundra obviously denied and clarified that Mallika was never approached for this film but for an erotic thriller called ‘Private Moments’, which the actress had turned down. As for the claim by one newspaper that the actors of Provoked had hurt Sikh sentiments by not behaving themselves in the gurudwara, both Ash and Mundra have publicly denied any such action.
So after a grueling schedule, hardwork and fighting off rumours, Provoked is ready for release and Aishwarya is once again in the public eye to be judged. Time to wait for the verdict.