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Exclusive! Aishwarya Rai Bachchan talks about her marriage, Abhishek and Aaradhya
You’re considered to be one of the most beautiful women in the world. How important is beauty for a woman?
I don’t know why beauty is attached only to women. I don’t believe it’s gender specific or even species specific. There’s truth in the oft used phrase, ‘Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’. You’ve grown up reading it. Poets make even more wonderful ways of expressing that basic sentiment. You can see beauty in any and everything. It goes beyond the obvious. You don’t quite believe the compliments that come my way. You can graciously and in all humility say ‘a thank you’. But beyond that you can’t dwell upon it and make that the fulcrum of existence. All that is transient. What lies within is what actually stands the test of time. For me that’s been the definition of beauty. And if that’s the recognition coming my way then you’ve managed to do what you’re meant to do - that is touch people in some way. It is about the core, it is about what’s within. That’s what probably adds gravitas to the term beauty where it is not just a six-letter word but much more. The superficial is transient.
You’ve always taken pride in walking your own path…
My first introduction to people was through my modelling assignments and then through the Miss World title. Both were glamorous platforms. That was the initial perception about me. But I come from an academic background. For me to not pursue a professional course but choose movies as a career was a serious decision, not just a frivolous walk through showbiz. I hoped with Iruvar as my first film, I’d announce to the world that I want to walk the path less travelled. Of course, I love to do glamorous cinema but that’s not all I’m defined by. When I chose Iruvar, I was diving right into the deep end. I had no formal training in acting, I didn’t have any experience because no one from my family had any connection to this industry. I was an audience a day before and the next day I was working with stalwarts.
You’ve been one of our first global icons. Now actors like Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone are taking the legacy forward…
I’m not going to make any proclamations and delude myself that I was the first. I enjoyed the recognition that came with the opportunities. There were many before me. Shabanaji (Azmi), Amrish Puriji, Kabir Bediji, Naseer saab, Om Puriji. Everybody has done work beyond Hindi cinema. I enjoy cinema. We grew up on Hindi cinema. Right from the onset I’ve worked in Tamil and Bengali cinema. I was open to Telugu and Malayalam cinema but it never came to be. When Gurinder Chaddha came up with this idea of an adaptation of Pride And Prejudice to make it Bride And Prejudice, I thought it was brilliant to lace it up with her signature humour. Incidentally, that film became like an announcement in a time when globalisation was changing our lives. That was the time our artistes, music directors, choreographers and technicians were dabbling in different industries. Suddenly I was on the covers of prestigious magazines. Devdas was celebrated at Cannes and I got the opportunity to be the first Indian actor on the jury of the festival. So a couple of firsts happened in my life. It might seem like I’m the first but there were many others before me. Life’s been kind that I got to enjoy those adages and recognition. My life is enriched with all these experiences.
Would you say opportunities are more abundant now?
The world is getting smaller. Look at the explosion of social media. If it means there’s going to be more and more of merging of talents, great! Kudos to everyone. Enjoy your time and enjoy whatever the cinema. No one is better or less equipped whatever be your experience. Recently at an event, a journalist asked me, ‘You were the first one to be on the TIME cover. How did you feel then?’ Obviously, Parveen Babi was the first. I said ‘As good as being interviewed by you.’ It’s as prestigious as being on the Filmfare cover. I’m not saying this to be diplomatically correct, I mean it. It’s just about that time and phase. Today the lines are blurring with social media, everything is accessible. And everybody is everywhere all the time. There’s no rarity. It’s up to each individual to avail of opportunities and experiences.
How does a woman make it big in a man’s world?
By not looking at the world through the gender glass. It’s extremely important to be comfortable in your skin. Be your best friend. You need to be brutally honest with yourself. Have a deep sense of conviction whatever your choices. Believe in the strength of ‘no’ because ‘yes’ is just the easiest way around. It’s important to enjoy and cherish each moment of your journey. Be in the present, be in the now and experience it in its entirety. Don’t be in any mad rush because time is only flying by. And the pace that we’re living in today is only getting faster and faster.
How is to be constantly judged when you make an appearance?
I look at it all with humour. There’s an immense regularity to me. I’ve held that true from my first day in showbiz. Sometimes Abhishek teases me saying, ‘You’re still in denial. I don’t think you realise you’ve been in showbiz and you’re married into a showbiz family and that our daughter is the next generation’. When there are occasions, which are perceived larger-than-life, it’s best to have humour as your companion. The student approach works best; you try and give your best to every occasion, whatever it is. I take to the table as a professional.
For an observer, your life seems like a fairytale... beauty pageants to movies to marrying a B-town prince. Is life that much of a magic on the inside?
(Laughs) I wish Abhishek was here right now. I’ve lead a normal life irrespective of what the perception is. I’m just a normal girl. I am my parents’ daughter. Abhishek is his parents’ son. We got married. Incidentally, we work in cinema. I’m a hard working, multi-tasking woman, with a multi-faceted life. Personally too, I’m playing so many roles. I’m giving my heart and soul to it all. Professionally I’m committed to the jobs I do because I believe in them. ‘Fairytale’ can be a perception and it writes itself beautifully.
Marriage is all about growing together and Abhishek and you’ve recently completed nine years.
Oh my God, I can’t believe it. How time flies! The journey’s been like a blink of an eye. It’s great that time is flying by so quickly and we’re not feeling the years. That’s a great sign.
Did marriage change you?
In life change is the only constant. It’s good to change. But it’s not something I’ll write home about. You have to be conscious about a change of phase in your life. You can’t just sail through everything and drift along. That means you’re not investing, you’re not experiencing, you’re not giving to it and taking back. You need to have that ‘exchange’ in all your relationships, be it with your parents, with your friends, your professionals and most importantly marriage. Because it’s not just two individuals coming together. Rather it’s about two families coming together. It’s your lives that you’re sharing. There are strong influences. We’re equally aware and conscious of embracing each other’s side and today we’re one. Two people who marry and decide to spend their life together should have that kind of exchange. So I’ve chosen to lean on exchange as opposed to change.
Recently, break-ups within the film industry have come under much scrutiny...
Actually, I don’t know if it’s sad or happy. To each their own. They know why they are making those choices. And I’m sure they believe it’s for the better. I don’t believe we should judge. We should not use words like sad or great for them. I’m sure it’s well thought out especially when there are kids involved. I’m sure people think through the choices they make. It’s important to respect the space people seek during sensitive phases of their lives.
What’s the best way to keep a relationship together?
There’s a lot of adjustment, a lot of give and take. There will be agreements and disagreements.But it’s important to keep the communication going. That’s something I’ve always believed in. Abhishek has been wonderful to respect that. Communication is extremely important in a relationship. Doesn’t it all start with friendship? What’s friendship all about? I’m not one of those who say, ‘Okay shut it for today and don’t take it to tomorrow’. If it needs to go to tomorrow, then it’ll go to tomorrow. And
if you can shut the chapter today, great! But neither fit into a rule book. There’s no finality in looking at each day. You have to be open-minded about how you share your time together. It also means respecting and being sensitive to your partner.
What’s special about Abhishek Bachchan?
He’s special because he’s himself. He’s a normal guy. When he walks into a room, he carries his lineage and his upbringing. It’s all out there in the obvious and yet you know he’s a guy in the room you can have a conversation with, you can hang out with, you can have fun with, you can have an intense conversation with. He’s someone who’ll have a straight face even as he jokes with you. He was born into showbiz and he has a lineage to carry. Despite all that there’s nothing showbiz about him. That’s the nicest part. He’s relatable and engaging as a person. And he’s my man, the father of my child.
Being a celebrity mother, what kind of a life do you wish for Aaradhya?
I’m not here to dictate to her or choose a life for her. I’m here to be her mom in a way, which I’m discovering on a day to day basis. I just want to see her happy, healthy and grow to be a secure person. A person who is comfortable being herself. The way she sees the world right now, she sees Utopia. And
I experience it through her eyes. It’s pure, it’s God-like. You see God through your child and that’s what you want to experience for her, with her and through her.
You’re known to take Aaradhya along to work?
When I’m shooting in Mumbai, I can take Aaradhya along with me as I can work around her school time. You lose two hours on the road going from location to home. So why not have those two hours with your kid? On Jazbaa, we’d work for long hours, packing a lot into one day. Instead of talking and snacking on location, waiting for the lights to be set, I’d be happy to spend time with her. Why give up ‘together time’? I take along all her activities and worksheets so she’s engaged. We laugh when she calls the vanity van, ‘the bus office’. I once picked her up from school on my way to a dubbing studio. So she vaguely knows what dubbing is. She knows what job we do but there’s not much ado about it.
Sanjay Gupta called you a ‘supermom’ considering how you looked after Aaradhya when she fell sick on the set of Jazbaa…
It was a weekend. I had a night shoot. It had rained the previous day. We had just this one day permission to shoot on the terrace of a mall. I thought I’d make her sleep while I shoot through the night and see her in between shots. While driving to the location, she started running fever. Gups (Sanjay Gupta) was sweet and said let’s cancel the shoot. I said it was alright. Around 4 am she had a bout of cough and threw up. Someone came running to tell me that. Gups said, ‘Oh God!
I didn’t even know she was here.’ But by day break we finished our work, so it was all good. If you plan your time well, you’re happy and your child is happy.
Are you a strict mother?
(Laughs) Years later you’ll hear from her about that. There’s no rule book that you walk around with. Knowingly or unknowingly you give to your child what you’ve imbibed and what you’ve been inculcated with. That’s what goes on from generation to generation. If it means guiding her to the best of my ability, I do. If it involves, giving her a direction, I will most definitely give that. I’ve received it so I will give that to her.
What sort of fears and insecurities do you feel at this point in your career?
None. That is held true since the beginning because I’ve never let that steer me. I hear my seniors say that creative insecurities and fears should always be there. They’re present when you go on set and give a shot until it’s okayed. But when you’re dubbing and you get reviewing your work, you may wonder if it hit the suur. That kind of creative insecurity or anxiety is a great feeling to have. I’m grateful I have that till date. Else, I’d just be jaded and bored and never want to return to a set. What I’m looking forward is to be creatively engaged, excited and surprised. It gives me a reason to dedicate my time and work hard.
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