(2006) Ash and Abhi talk of everything but love
They are Bollywood’s hottest couple. Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan were in Dubai for the premiere of Umrao Jaan. Tabloid! discovered that both are masters in diplomacy.
They are Bollywood’s hottest couple. Former Miss World Aishwarya Rai was voted among the most beautiful women in the world. And Abhishek Bachchan recently topped a poll for the sexiest man in Asia. The two were in Dubai for the premiere of Umrao Jaan. Promoting their onscreen romance in this period film, they evaded questions on their off-screen chemistry. In an exclusive interview, Tabloid! discovered that both are masters in diplomacy.
How do you choose your films, Aishwarya?
I have been fortunate to have the luxury of choosing from really great offers and I exercise my choice at various levels.
Firstly, I look at the character and how the role fits in with the script. For example, my character Meera from The Last Legion was not originally in the book and I asked for it to be more fleshed out before I could commit to it.
If the script sounds exciting, then I ask for a narration because to me the passion, vision and conviction of the director are crucial.
I also look at the producer because a good production team is essential to translate the director’s vision. Another important aspect is my experiences through the year. Moving from one intense film to another can be exhausting, so I take on some lighter films to give myself a break.
After a classical film like Umrao Jaan it was great fun to do a contemporary film such as Dhoom 2 where I will be seen in a western mould for the first time in my 10-year career.
Do you think rumours of an affair with Abhishek will negatively affect your films with other leading men?
Nobody has ever asked me this and I have never thought about it. The response to the promos of Dhoom 2, where I am paired with Hrithik, are good.
In general, I do not dwell on such things because I know that it can take me off course professionally and personally. I have a very “schoolish” approach to my work and believe in focusing 100 per cent on my work and try my best to not let gossip affect me in any way.
Being on the jury at Cannes must have given you rare insights into the making and judging of good films around the world. Anything you feel Bollywood could learn from that to make its films more internationally acceptable?
Cannes was a great learning experience for me. But what I love about our film industry is that we are quite content making the films that we do and we clearly make them for our audience.
I do not think Indian filmmakers need to change anything just to prove a point. Those who want to make films for the festival circuit are doing that and it is a matter of pride for the fraternity that even our genre of typical Bollywood films are finding an international audience.
Time magazine included you in its list of the 100 most influential people in the world. How would you like to use that influence?
Being on that list is an honour. I am thrilled by it and cherish it. These lists are a reminder of the number of lives we touch unknowingly. I recognise the responsibility that goes with choosing to be an actor in a medium that connects with millions of people and hence am careful about my conduct and choices.
Who would you vote for as the most beautiful woman in the world?
My mummy. She truly deserves it.
Abhishek, you have been joking that all you did in Umrao Jaan was to watch Ash dancing. Why did you choose to work in the film?
I did not choose Umrao Jaan, it chose me. J.P. Dutta called me and wanted me to be a part of film and that was it.
Do you think Umrao Jaan will appeal to the younger generation, especially abroad?
I hope it does. At a time when films are technology-based and futuristic, it will be nice to see something that takes you back to a different era. I would be interested in seeing it.
Do you think rumours about you and Ash will have a negative effect on your films with other heroines?
No, why should they have any effect?
Do you tend to choose films produced and directed by your friends?
Beggars cannot be choosers. I do the films that I am offered. I am just lucky that a lot of my friends have found me capable of working in their films.
It is important for an actor to be comfortable on the sets and I thoroughly enjoy having my friends as co-actors and directors.
Why have you done so many special appearances in recent films?
I do not believe in terms like special or guest appearance; I believe in being part of a film whole-heartedly. The size of the role has never mattered to me. I have done these small cameos because the films were made by my friends who thought that I should be a part of their projects.
Any concerns about being overshadowed by Hrithik in Dhoom 2?
Not at all. We have grown up together and I am happy to be working with my friends. We have all worked hard and I hope audiences will find it entertaining.
What is your opinion of remakes and of the new Don?
It is a wonderful trend. A director is a creative person and must have the liberty to make his own interpretation of a book or another film. I looked at Don as a new film and enjoyed it. It is nice to see dad’s film upgraded for today’s moviegoers.
Any remakes that you would like to star in?
Too many to name because I love movies in general — all of my dad’s films for sure.
Would you have liked to be in Sholay?
I was dying to be in it, but my other commitments did not allow that.
Can you share a special moment from the films you have done with your father?
It is every actor’s dream to stand in the same frame as his father and I am happy I got the opportunity three times. Every moment with him on the sets is a moment to cherish and an exciting experience.
Is there anything you consciously try not to do like your father?
It has never been a conscious decision to do or not do anything. I am his son and I am going to be a lot like him.
Besides your dad, which other actors do you admire?
I admire everyone who can stand in front of a camera and deliver a dialogue, because I know how hard it is. Every actor in our industry is talented and gifted and I have immense respect and admiration for all of them.
What would you like to say to your fans in the UAE?
Just two words — Thank You. For all the love and support and for believing in me. I hope they continue to give me the opportunity to entertain them. Without them we are nothing and there is never enough opportunity to thank them.
Umrao Jaan is the tragic tale of a young girl called Ameeran who is abducted and sold to a brothel. The film by J.P. Dutta is based on a book by Mirza Mohammad Hadi Ruswa, written in the late nineteenth century.
It traces the transformation of a small town girl from a poor family into Umrao Jaan, a talented dancer, singer and poetess and a courtesan admired and wooed by royalty.
Aishwarya Rai plays Umrao Jaan and Abhishek Bachchan plays Nawab Sultan whom she loved and lost. The premiere was organised by STAR Middle East in association with AD LABS & HUM.
Short take with Dutta
Why did you want to make a film that has been made so many times already?
To fulfil my father O.P. Dutta’s dream. In 1952 he began making Ghazal with Nimmi as Umrao Jaan, but had to abandon it because another film called Zindagi aur Toofan based on the same story was ready to be released. I waited a generation after Muzaffar Ali’s Umrao Jaan to make my interpretation of this classic.
Will a period film appeal to young audiences?
They accepted Lagaan and Parineeta so why not this one. Besides, in the history of Indian films, no movie about a tawaif (courtesan) has failed.
- By Jyoti Kalsi, Gulf News Report