(2006) Ash says she was subject to violence

Cannes, May 19: The world’s media gathered in Cannes today asked Aishwarya Rai whether she had personally experienced domestic violence — and she confirmed that she had.

She was speaking at the Noga Hilton Beach, sitting alongside Kiranjit Ahluwalia, the Sikh woman she portrays in Provoked, a film about domestic violence.

“That’s a direct question!” she commented, when asked about her own life.

“Have I experienced it? Yeah,” she replied.

But she had wanted to do the film, not for personal reasons, she claimed, but to “give voice to all the Kirans we are aware of”. She admitted she had found doing the role “disturbing”.

Invited by journalists, especially western female journalists who wanted to know about the position of women in Indian society, to be more forthcoming, she skirted round the question.

“That’s where I write my book, give my story, thank you,” she responded.

Later, in case anyone thought her suffering was similar to that of Kiranjit, who was abused for 10 years by her husband, Deepak, she clarified that “individually, as a person, it’s not easy (to talk about it) — like I said when she asked me, ‘Would you like to talk about your own experience’, there are different degrees.”

She added: “Mine need not be as extreme. It could be it’s my own story but, as I said, I will save what I have when I want to because it does take a lot to go out there, write your book, give all the details out and have the world as an audience.”

It was not clear whether she was proposing to write a book or warning Salman Khan that she could.

She projected herself today as an ambassador of India. When the director Jagmohun Mundhra made the mistake, in her eyes, of saying that India “is becoming a power”, she snapped: “India is a power on the world map.”

She said as an Indian she understood how difficult it was for Kiranjit to expose herself to the Cannes media. Perhaps thinking of her own position, she pointed out: “You are open to scrutiny, you are open to huge judgement.”

She enthusiastically grabbed the microphone when asked to explain the growing popularity of Indian cinema in the West and to provide some understanding of what it meant to be a star in India.

“How do I explain Bollywood cinema, getting the attention it is receiving on the world platform? I am not questioning it. I am just supporting it full throttle. It gives me immense pride to be part of the movement. I am glad that people are embracing and appreciating our Indian cinema for their feel-good, music, songs, family, emotional subjects.”

As for being a star: “I never dreamt when I was at school that this is where I would be. It is a blessing that my job is my passion. It also offers me the opportunity to express my views on more personal situations like this.”

Incidentally, she had not wanted to keep the press waiting. That is why she had turned up in a “strappy beach dress” (worn with spikes), instead of a formal suit or sari.

The ladies and gentlemen of the press believed her and gave her an appreciative round of applause for her thoughtfulness.

- The Telegraph – Calcutta

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