India's premier luxury lifestyle women's magazine
Verve People
December 18, 2006

Poised To Soar

Text by Litta Jacob. Photograph by Atul Kasbekar, Verve First Quarter, 1999

Every man’s fantasy come alive, Aishwarya Rai creates a buzz once again with her new bronzed look in the recently released, Dhoom:2. Verve recalls its interaction with the iconic beauty when she first set foot in Bollywood with her debut film, Aur Pyar Ho Gaya and finds that at the core, Ash remains much the same….

Think you can see beyond the beauty? Those breathtaking eyes, pouting lips and fair skin? Think you can place aside realms of poetry to reach the incisive brain that lies within? If you can, you are on a face-off – not with the ‘glitz, glamour and show business’ persona that the world assumes is Aishwarya Rai – but with (surprise!) order, reason, logic…. Behind her every word lies a well-ordered thought process that disseminates, analyses and processes information to emit, what you and I would term simple communication, but which through her lips, fall like pearls of wisdom.

The pace at which things have transplanted in her life have contributed to moulding her. And she lives by the belief that the natural order of human life is determined by its ebb and flow – you just have to wait your turn and ride each wave. Such profound wisdom from one so young? Thanks to her formative years – basic education and family upbringing, because therein lies, “my understanding of life and people”. School and moral science? “Yes, the one we scoffed at and said, ‘Oh my God! Here we go again.’ Learning classical music and Bharata Natyam have shaped my body language.”

She came up against the first rough eddy in standard 10, when she didn’t quite attain the required marks. Adolescent Ash then learnt that you cannot live according to other people’s expectations. The next lump she had to swallow was the loss of the Miss India title by a .02 margin to Sushmita Sen.

But the highs soon followed, one after the other. Offers for commercial modelling pursued her doggedly and she worked hard. “Even when I considered modelling a hobby – I was (pause) bloody professional.” With the Miss World experience came quick maturity, so what sits on those slim shoulders is not just a pretty ‘ash-brown’ head but, should we say, the solemnity of Solomon?

During her first ad film, good friend, Mickey Contractor, took one look at her and announced, “Two years.” “Two years?” quivered Ash. “Let’s have a bet that within two years you will be in films, because that’s where you’re meant to be.” She made it in three and Contractor was quick to quip, “Blame one year on Miss World.” Now “in the movies”, Ash finds herself again in those bothersome little troughs. Iruvar, Aur Pyar Ho Gaya and Jeans bombed and people began casting those questioning looks her way once more. “I have done my role in each of the films to the best of my ability. I have worked enough for the next round of offers to come to me. If I am going to put the best years of my life into this profession, I had better enjoy it and do my best. Instead of putting my feet up, I have to work hard to show them that I am somebody different.” All she needs and gets is the appreciation and approval of her directors. Since she, “never trained for anything,” each director she works with opens up a new school of thought. She is “open to people as a race, I am genuinely fond of them,” she laughs. “I am very adaptable…. It’s a misconception that in the film industry there is a certain type of person. A lot of these people are just softies!”

Call her ‘Ms Pragmatic’ and she’ll give you three different reasons why you shouldn’t. “Oh! I’ve always been this way even with my elder brother.” And we thought she was this handle-with-care Dresden piece, too delicate to dust.

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