(2009) Moviehole Interview

She’s a former Miss Universe, and one of the most popular Bollywood stars in India these days. She’s also one of the busiest, and often has to turn down western productions because of her hectic schedule. But one opportunity Aishwarya Rai wasn’t about to pass up was ”Pink Panther 2”. The 35-year-old beauty plays the romantic interest in the film, but of course, she’s not all that she seems. The film recently screened Out of Competition at the Berlin Film Festival. Rai along with Steve Martin and Jean Reno were in town to present the film. Gaynor Flynn reports.

You’re the beautiful bad girl in this film, how does it feel?

Well bad has never been so good.

What was your reaction when you first heard about the Pink Panther 2 role?

I smiled because that’s what the film evokes. They sent me the offer, but for me to work outside of India my schedule is always a huge deciding factor and back home I’m spoiled for choice and its very easy in India to commit yourself for the next two years. And then when offers come from outside of India you don’t have the time and it becomes difficult to slot it in. However what happened with Pink Panther I got married that year. I got married in the middle of making movies. I was committed to two so I had kept a couple of months off towards the end of the year so that’s how we could squeeze Pink Panther in and my husband was like you have to do this. Its not an intense acting piece, its like a holiday and we’ve all grown up on it. You know you’re nieces and nephews are going to laugh and have a good time and tomorrow my kids. So it was just a laugh and I was happy to be a part of it and a great ensemble cast. Actors who have serious careers and yet here they are here being silly and having fun.

Its a very physical role for you as well. Was that tough?

I loved that part. That was the fun. Steve kept saying we all love playing with guns so much we were like kids. It was tough on stilettos. Running on stilettos wasn’t easy. I wouldn’t recommend it but otherwise the climax was so much fun and they were having cake in their face. We were like kids.

But was the action difficult at all for you?

I enjoy action. I have done a lot of action in Last Legion and that was my first experience of action. Then I did two movies in India, which had action as well but not as much. And I realized that I really enjoy it and in fact on the set they teased me. They were like so you want to play Wonder Woman next. That was what was being talked about until the strike set in. So they were talking about all of that. I think action is a lot of fun.

Perhaps it comes so easy to you because you studied dance in your teens?

Thats what they said to me in The Last Legion. In that movie I was doing a lot of sword fighting and I didn’t have time to rehearse or train too much because again I was making a film in India. So I literally came in a week before we started rolling.
And thats the first thing the action directors told me. Your basics in dance is really helping you because I took to action like a fish to water because its choreography. I guess I was supple because of dance so it definitely comes in handy.

You started out wanting to be an architect right?

Well I started out I was a science student and nobody in my family belonged to the movies or showbiz whatsoever. I was very academically orientated and initially I thought it would be medicine and many of my friends are doctors and I do still love the subject. And at 18 you start thinking about life, and that’s the time you choose your career and I was thinking is this what I’m going to dedicate myself to for the rest of my life? And I suddenly thought well I love medicine but I’ve always been very emotional and a highly sensitive human being and I thought will I be able to commit to a career as emotionally demanding as this and balance it out with a family in the future? So I suddenly decided to choose architecture. Now architecture was not a childhood dream. It was for me a mix of science and art and I was inclined both ways so I decided to explore this field. And I must say I enjoyed it very much. In the meanwhile I had started doing a bit of modeling on the side. It started with me doing it for a professor who was suffering from cancer. She was also a photojournalist. She passed away soon after but I did one fashion feature for her. That got a lot of attention and so I started to get a lot of offers. Through peer pressure there was this whole idea of doing the pageant which I initially did as a laugh because I was like yeah whatever. So Miss India happened and then after that you get chosen to go to Miss World. Then I won so I had to take a year off so that’s how all that came about.

You’re a huge star in India, can you have a normal life there these days?

Well I hope I’m normal.

But do you need bodyguards for example?
It would be irresponsible to go without security. Not just for myself but even for where I’m going to because if things get out of hand. Its a very if, but situation. You know its just people and so its unpredictable because you never know how people are going to react and so yes we do keep security for that very reason. And I do try my best to live a normal life but I do confess that I can’t just take a stroll in India so when we come out of India we love to walk as and when we can but one in six is an Indian. We are everywhere. So we just say a thank you for the complements.

What’s next?

Oh my goodness, many films. My schedule is full for the next two years in India. [laughs]

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