Voted among the 100 most influential people on the planet by Time magazine some years back and described as dutiful bahu by her in-laws, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan seems to manage both lives very well, she admits, however, "I like to break myths and people's preconceived ideas."
That's probably why she never moved into a love nest with hubby Abhishek, choosing instead to live with Pa Amitabh and Ma Jaya. It may surprise many that the world's most beautiful woman, blessed with both money and power, won't assert her independent status, but for Ash, it seems practical. "I'm married into a household which is constantly travelling. So, we don't breathe down each other's necks like a normal 'joint family' would. The get-togethers, whenever they occur, are precious."
But, on couples choosing to stay separately, she adds, "To each his own." Put in a very Bachchan-esque manner, we must say! Reminds us of a certain Bachchan Senior who handles uncomfortable questions with similar finesse. Do we put it down to post-marital training or simply the fact that she has what it takes to be the bahu of the first family of filmdom? Somehow, her comfortable glow as Ms Rai Bachchan makes one wonder if she has finally found her place in the sun.
But she insists that life hasn't changed after having added a powerful surname to her name. If anything, life has got more hectic. "Do you know that I was married in April and till Diwali I was still moving my stuff from Bandra to Juhu? I didn't stop working just because I became a Bachchan bahu."
But does being the daughter-in-law of the Bachchans mean working with the family only? "I've never made such statements. But, yes, life is short and relationships are important. I would like to invest my time carefully."
And, working with Amitabh and Abhishek, by her own admission, is convenient, since pack-up means quality family time. Emoting with her real-life husband onscreen, how does that feel? "Oh, we're professionals but it does feel nice to have the person I love the most around. As for Mr Amitabh Bachchan, I've worked with him much before I became his bahu, haven't I? What's the big deal if he's my father-in-law now? Also, I'm not just some girl who married into a star family incidentally." Looks like she has all the answers!
She's also used to a family, which is constantly on the move. "Earlier, dad was sailing constantly and I was often away on 'location'. So I used to ask my mother to come along for shoots. Though the industry tittered that 'she wants mummy on the sets', for me, it was a way of spending time with her." She adds, "My life has always been a race against time. My days are getting fuller. We have no Sundays and consider ourselves lucky if we get a holiday."
She adds on a softer note, "I've always loved wearing the sari. I think I dress beyond my age." Getting back to more pleasant topics, how's life as a bahu? Does she plan dinner like the average Indian wife or perhaps pick Abhishek's clothes? "I'm still finding out about the intricacies of married life. A woman, I believe, has it in her to embrace everything — home, career, responsibility."
Aishwarya would like us to believe her whole career is a statement. This comes in the wake of criticism recently for her oh-so-brief, somewhat villainous role in the Hollywood film Pink Panther 2. “I didn’t do it to prove a point or show off my acting ability. It was a fun part which I said a yes to more because of the experience of working with a fantastic team. So many Indian actors have worked in international ensemble casts, so I don’t see the big deal in me doing the same,” said the actress defensively. “Each of the actors — right from Jean Reno to Andy Garcia and me — knew that it’s a Steve Martin film. So I think it’s extremely silly and exhausting to talk about the length of my role. I’ve never worked with stardust in my eyes, nor do I have a role-length-fetish.”
Which is true, because Ash has bridged the East-West gap early on and is hardly in awe of her Hollywood counterparts, unlike some starstruck Bollywood actors who even touch the feet of their Hollywood idols. “What can I say? To each their own! I don’t want to get into this,” said the actress unwilling to comment on the habits of her colleagues. Pink Panther 2 apart, 2009 has begun on a good note for Ash. She made it to the Top 50 Most Desirable Woman in the World list in an international online poll and was honoured with the Padma Shri back home, both of which she credits to her fans’ support.