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Monday June 24, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Monday June 24, 2013 MYT 8:16:25 AM
by s. indramalar
'The praise, the compliments, the scrutiny and judgement has been consistent and continues till today and it has become just a way of life for me. But it isn’t my fulcrum,' says Aishwarya Rai.
Her beauty and acting ability won her recognition but at heart, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is happy to be out of the limelight.
AS she is about to conclude an interview with a local fashion magazine, answering a few last questions about her style preferences, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan glances up and smiles warmly at me as I wait for my cue to enter the interview room at the Westin Kuala Lumpur. Her blue-green eyes are warm and welcoming and her smile, generous.
It isn’t hard to be spellbound by the Bollywood star and former beauty queen, touted as one of the most beautiful women on Earth.
Aishwarya was in Kuala Lumpur briefly, as the brand ambassador for Longines, for the opening of the brand’s boutique at the Pavilion mall.
She stands up as I enter the room, shakes my hand and asks how I am. She then settles into a comfortable beige club chair and looks directly at me, ready for my questions.
Her confidence is immediately obvious, even a little disarming.
“This is my 14th year with Longines,” she begins. “I think it (my relationship with Longines) is super precious and it is wonderful that it has lasted this long and is still going strong. The brand found me ... they approached me to endorse them and what I loved immediately was their incredible history in watchmaking ... their definitive knowledge and expertise in the craft of watchmaking. And their motto – ‘Elegance is an attitude’ – I can see that they truly believe it. The company conducts itself with that very philosophy and I have experienced that for 14 years now.
“I also love their designs, which are contemporary and modern and yet, there is still something very old school about the watches. There is a simplicity which I regard as truly elegant and beautiful. They don’t scream for attention but are the perfect accessory for both night and day ... they are not only the perfect jewel piece but also timepiece,” she says.
Aishwarya could be describing her own personal style. Despite being one of the most photographed women, she seems to eschew glamorous and outlandish fashion for more simple yet classy and elegant styles.
Having won the Miss World beauty pageant in 1994, Aishwarya has gone on to become one of India’s most sought-after leading ladies, starring in a succession of box-office hits such as Iruvar (1997), Hum Del De Chuke Sanam (1999), Devdas (2002) and Jodhaa Akhbar (2008) as well as English movies like Jag Mundhra’s independent British drama Mistress Of Spices (2005), Provoked (2006) and Hollywood spy-comedy Pink Panther 2 (2009). Despite her star power – which grew after she married Abhishek Bachchan, son of Bollywood royalty Amitabh Bachchan – the 39-year-old star has managed to maintain a low profile, largely staying away from controversial headlines which are synonymous with celebrities.
The actress made the headlines in India last year for, bewilderingly, failing to regain her pre-pregnancy figure after giving birth to her daughter Aaradhya in November 2011. Photos of the fuller-sized beauty were splashed in print and online, with articles fiercely criticising her post-natal figure.
Such harsh, unkind criticism, Aishwarya reckons, is just part and parcel of being in the spotlight and is something she has learnt not to be affected by.
“Right from the beginning, the volume (of attention) I have received has been huge and for that, I thank the media and all my fans and well-wishers. I have always accepted all the compliments with grace ... it’s not easy for me to gush, but I keep saying thank you in all humility. The praise, the compliments, the scrutiny and judgement has been consistent and continues till today and it has become just a way of life for me. But it isn’t my fulcrum,” says the actress.
In person, Aishwarya looked as svelte as ever in a stylish black dress that just skimmed her knees. Her make-up was light and natural and there was no sign of the double chin that the tabloids made a hoopla about after her delivery.
“I have a very positive approach to life which I find extremely strengthening and empowering,” she explains. “I have such clarity about who I am and my approach to life which I have my parents to thank for. I don’t know exactly what they did ... what secret inculcation I had but I am focused on my own reality and that is what I hope to give my children too. I knew right from the beginning how important it is not to take either the compliments or the criticism seriously. Once you know who you are, you don’t let anyone’s opinion define you. Otherwise, you will just disintegrate with the negativity.”
On screen, she has proven herself to be a versatile actress, having played a variety of characters in a number of genres. In life, however, Aishwarya says she is the same person both at home and in the public eye.
“The person you are talking to ... this is who I am,” she says. “I travel light. There is no baggage of pretension and that is why I am able to be so comfortable whether at home with my family, at an event, shooting a movie or doing an interview,” she says.
Family is obviously very important to Aishwarya – throughout the 15-minute interview, she makes constant references to them – particularly her parents, Krishnaraj Rai, a marine biologist, and Brindya Rai, a writer – and the influence they have had in her life.
At the moment, Aishwarya is relishing her role as a mother. When she speaks of her daughter, her face softens and her eyes beam.
“Motherhood has, by far, been just the most superlative experience of unconditional love I have ever experienced. I consider it an immense blessing. It has been a very, very natural role for me to embrace and I am loving every millisecond of it,” she says, breaking into a wide smile.
As much as she is basking in the joys of being a hands-on mum, Aishwarya is well aware that her fans are impatiently waiting for her return to celluloid. It has, after all, been more than two years since Guzaarish, her last film with Hrithik Roshan came out.
“You know, I am always asked about “my break” but I somehow haven’t felt like I have been on a break at all. Even though I haven’t been acting, I have been busy doing a lot of my endorsement work as well as my philantrophy and humanitarian work ... I was recently appointed the goodwill ambassador of UNAIDS. In fact, three months after having delivered Aaradhya, I went on my first assignment to Dubai with Longines. So, it has been a very eventful year. But I do appreciate my fans who keep reminding me that I have been on a break!” she laughs.
To assuage her eager fans, however, Aishwarya lets on that she has a few film projects lined up, although she stopped short of divulging details.
“I have been looking at a lot of scripts and have finally greenlit a couple of them which the filmmakers are now starting to work on. We will make the announcements and the world will know once everything has been put together,” she says, coyly.
Getting back into acting would mean spending more time away from her daughter, but Aishwarya isn’t too worried about how she will juggle her time or her responsibilities.
“I will be like every other working mother,” she says candidly. “I don’t have a secret formula. I think every working mother will agree that every day is a new experience and I think the key is being able to prioritise. That is the key to embracing all the various commitments and responsibilities in our lives. I only take on something if I know I can commit to it fully. This, again, is something I picked up from my parents and it is something I have applied though all my experiences in life,” she says.
> She turned down the role of Briseis in the film Troy because she wasn’t comfortable with the explicit intimate scenes in the movie.
> She is a trained Indian classical dancer.
> She has one elder brother, Aditya Rai, who works in Navy and has also co-produced one of Rai’s movies,Dil Ka Rishta (2003).
> Though she is a fan of watches, Aishwarya is apparently not very fond of jewellery.
> Though her mother tongue is Tulu, she is fluent in English, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil and Urdu.
> She has tulips named after her at the Keukenhof Gardens in the Netherlands.
> Aishwarya’s first commercial was for Camlin pencils when she was only in the ninth grade.
> She is the only Indian to have graced the maximum covers of International magazines. She was the first Indian celebrity to feature on a Rolling Stones magazine cover.
> Aishwarya was the first Indian actress to be made a jury member in the Cannes Film Festival.
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Lifestyle, Others, Aishwarya Rai, Bollywood, Longines
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