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Keep it real

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan on the Raavan experience, a film that demanded not just sweat and tears, but blood too.

entertainment Updated: Apr 28, 2010 12:51 IST
Hiren Kotwani

Aishwarya Rai It’s not unheard of Bollywood filmmakers to plan their next project while still working on one but it’s hard to imagine someone as focused as Mani Ratnam doing the same.

But if Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is to be believed, Mani sir gave her a sneak peek of Raavan while filming the rain dance in Guru, ‘Nanna re…’."There I was, dancing in the rain, in full abandon, not knowing that Mani sir was probably seeing Ragini (the character she plays in Raavan) in me even then," she reminisces.

For the actress who debuted with Ratnam’s Tamil film, Iruvar, Raavan will be her third outing with the master craftsman. And this time, she played the character twice over for the film’s Hindi and Tamil versions.

She describes Ragini as “the most challenging role of my career” because they shot in some of the most treacherous locales and “discovered muscles that we didn’t know existed.”

Pulled, pushed and dunked
Wake up call would be at 5 am and then it would a long trek to the location. “By the time we got there, we were all dirty, wet and cold. Mani’s favourite line was ‘Keep it real,’ even as we were getting into action with leeches crawling all over our bodies, and snakes swimming in the chilled water in which we were standing knee deep,” she shudders at the memory. “I was tied, blindfolded, pulled, pushed, dragged and even dunked in the ice cold water. So much so that I was even drowning and screaming for help.”

Recalling the experience with the blood-sucking leeches, the actress jokes, “Apart from sweat and tears, we even gave our blood to this film.” The more ‘real’ they got, the more Ratnam loved it. And no sooner had she stepped out of the rapids, she was asked to go back in for another take for the Tamil version that they were shooting simultaneously. “If he loved a shot in Tamil, he’d ask for a retake in Hindi and vice versa,” she says, adding that despite all the bruises, if she had to do it all over again, she would.

From the wild side
At the film’s music launch last Saturday in Mumbai, the actress compered the show, getting her co-stars, husband Abhishek and Vikram, her Raavan and Ram, to share their memories of the shoot in forests and atop cliffs with her.

She got the reticent Ratnam to step upfront from the back of the shooting floor at Yash Raj Studio where the event was hosted. And even got a sentence or two out of music director AR Rahman who came up with a live jugalbandi with song writer Gulzar.

Aishwarya was word perfect, Abhishek didn’t miss a step as he gyrated to the beat of Beera Beera… And it was impossible to imagine that the couple who had landed in Mumbai from the US just that morning had had no time for rehearsals. “We got off the plane and Mani sir hit us with what had been planned for the evening’s entertainment,” she flashbacks. “When I protested saying how was I going to pull it off at such short notice, he told me nonchalantly, ‘It’s easy, just keep it real.’” Touche!