Aishwarya Rai

The former Miss World is literally on top of the world. Success after success. Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Taal, Josh, Hum Aapke Dil Mein Rehtein Hain, Mohabaatein and even the offbeat Kandukondain Kandukondain. Some have already enthroned her on the numero uno position. We talk to her on her stupendous success and forthcoming plans at a theatre in Bandra where she had hosted a special screening of Kandukondain Kandukondain, Rajeev Menon's women-oriented film, which was a huge success down south, for some of her American friends.

How do you feel after the success of Mohabaatein and Josh especially after people were wary of its chances at the box-office as in one film had you and Shah Rukh play romantic couple and in another you play twin brother and sister ?

Mohabaatein is a hit despite all the apprehensions expressed by everybody about me playing romantic lead with ShahRukh especially after 'Josh'. About 'Josh' also everybody felt that the film would fail because of its unusual casting but we went by the director's conviction and it paid off. The film was a huge hit and that shows that a good performance and artiste is accepted in any role.

Why did you accept to do a film like Kandukondain Kandukondain ?
Language is not the barrier for good cinema. I had also enjoyed working in Jeans in the past. Kandukondain deals with women's issues and I can strongly identify with the character. I like Rajeev's style of working. It was a great experience. I am open to such films always and I do not believe in classifications like parallel and commercial cinema. In fact, the film's original version with English sub-titles did good business in Mumbai and that shows a good film is accepted even if it does not contain the usual elements.

How do you feel when they say that you are the number one right now ?
I don't believe in numbers. In fact, I am here only to be called a good actress. Moreover, labels are not new to me. I was tagged a lot of things. Since I never considered any of them seriously, I don't think I will take this one seriously. It is part of the game.

After so many hits, Mohabaatein, HDDCS, Taal, Josh, HDAPH and KK, people will expect lot from you, how do you plan to keep up the good work?
I take everyday as it comes, I don't plan out anything. Performance and growth, with experience, are what I've always been trying to focus on. Audiences react to artistes because they see us in films that are released one after the other. In fact, our movies are made almost simultaneously. We grow during the making of a film, from day to day. What one sees as an overall good performance is a cumulative effort of all the talents that come together in the making of a film.

What supports an artiste is a great script, a good team, conviction in the role, and the malleability of the artiste and the director ?
I'm sure it helps everybody, but for someone like me, who has been under such tought scrutiny, that's what has really helped. I'm also glad because films like HDDCS and Josh have made people sit up and notice the actress in me. That's success, not box-office numbers.

Were your good performances ignored in earlier films because they fared badly at the box-office?
That would happen if a film is not mounted well. But the audiences are wise enough to tell the difference. So they sometimes respond to a hit film, or return with a response to a performance, despite a film being a flop. I don't think a good performance ever goes unnoticed by the audience.

How do you react to the allegations made by producer Shabnam Kapoor against you ?
If you follow the case, and dig out histories of both of us as individuals and professionals, the cards will be on the table. I don't have to defend myself against her or anybody for that matter. I don't have to explain anything to anybody.

How do you feel after receiving some of the popular awards for HDDCS ?
Awards and titles are not new to me. I have seen it all during the Miss India and Miss World. My biggest award is when people stand up and appreciate me. Not only audiences, but also directors, seniors and co-stars who recognise my worth. And I always wanted to carve the niche for myself, to be recognised as an actress. Name, fame, glamour, fan following were all there. The awards are icing on the cake.

What are your forthcoming films ?
Apart from Hum Panchchi Ek Daal Ke, I have just signed Feroz Khan's Kurbaan Tujhpe Meri Jaan, wherein I am teamed with Fardeen and Ajay. Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas was rolling, but Bharat Shah's arrest has affected its shootings.

What is your role in Devdas ?

It's an interesing role. Paro is known as the symbol of love. After all Devdas-Paro go together. So does Chandramukhi. I would like to get into the psyche of Paro. One thing I'll make darn sure of is not to compete with Chandramukhi (played by Madhuri Dixit). Here I am talking about the character, mind you. Obviously, I do not know Chandramukhi till I meet her. I never completely know what Chadramukhi is all about; and so I am constantly trying to understand her. That's exactly how I am going to portray the character of Paro. I find Paro very interesting. She is human and goes through an array of emotions like Nandini in HDDCS.

What about the tales of an offscreen romance with a co-star, what kind of guy would you like to marry?
Offscreen romance and link-ups are part of this industry. It is the price that you have to pay for success and I am not complaining. As for the guy I shall marry, compatibility is most important for me. Because that's what eventually holds people together. Attributes like honesty, trust, camaraderie, love, sensitivity, sense of humour are all fine but nothing is more important than compatibility. I am taking each day as it comes and everything is a matter of right day and time .

Aishwarya spoke to our Seasons Correspondent Sanyukta.

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