Aishwarya Rai Bachchan first attended Cannes Film Festival to promote the hit Bollywood film Devdas back in 2007. Having not looked back since, the B-town beauty has been a constant at the prestigious event. Talking to Film Companion in a recent interview, Aishwarya weighed in on starring in Mani Ratnam’s Ponniyin Selvan: I and why we don’t see more of her onscreen.
Speaking about what it is like to reunite with Mani, whom she often refers to as her guru, the actor said, “It’s always special, each and every time. In the beginning, it was an absolute blessing for the student in me, who was just diving right into cinema and getting to work with Mani Ratnam. I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. I’m blessed to have gotten to work with a director and a talent like him over the years on so many projects and so many memorable films. They’ve been great experiences for me as a growing artist. I say growing artist because you continue to grow, even now, even tomorrow, with every new experience.”
She continued, “Ponniyin Selvan is his dream project and he said, ‘This is something I’d wanted to make right at the beginning.’ I’m so privileged and so blessed that he asked me to be a part of his dream. Just that itself is so fulfilling. The experience has been superlative, as always and you work with a talent like him and the talent that he brings together each and every time in terms of the creative talent, the talent behind the camera, the one around you. I’m an artist who belongs to film – I love the entire process of filmmaking. To work with that kind of energy is just so fulfilling at the end of each working day. You feel so good.”
When asked why audiences do not get to see much of her onscreen despite all the exciting work happening in the Indian film industry, Aishwarya shared, “I’m asked this question so often, I think it’s a good thing. Thank you for the love. I have no negative comments on the work coming my way because, to be fair, people have been very very kind. I’ve been getting very interesting scripts.”
Shedding light on the Covid-19 pandemic, she mentioned, “What happened in the last two years was a natural pause that we all took. It’s been a really challenging two years. My natural instinct is to focus on reality and what’s going on. I’ve never been one to play into the idea of: Oh my god, time is flying by, why don’t I have a release this year? How many releases do I want to put out? What are the kinds of comments I might attract? What kind of perception will this attract?” She added, “I’ve never been one to play into perception. I’m blessed that I could focus on my family and not have to worry about how it will be three to four years before I have another release. I didn’t have to worry about what the world would think or what the industry would think. That’s not been me in good times, that’s certainly not going to be me in times when the world is experiencing Covid.”
Aishwarya explained that Ponniyin Selvan began as an idea just before the pandemic struck the world, so it took a long time to get work started on it. “It was a huge challenge. My absolute respect to Mani, who captained this and managed to get work done in the bubbles we were working in. Getting that done was a priority, and then I prioritised my life and being safe because I have a child and elderly family members. So that was me for a large window of time. I think it’s professional to approach the possibility of work when you see the world becoming a safer place. I don’t know how to do things in half measures.”
She concluded, “I’m always all in on every aspect of life, whether it’s my personal life, the reality around me or my professional life. Even as a newcomer, I’ve always been the proverbial tortoise. I’ve focused on my work and trudged along at a pace which is right, real and committed.”