Ash: Director's actress
Bollywood diva Aishwarya Rai says she has gone through enough in life to feel the part of the self-deluding, frustrated and defeated housewife she plays in Rituparno Ghosh's elegiac Raincoat. She's done it! After a string of no-no's, Aishwarya has delivered a walloping performance in the film.
In the right hands Aishwarya is always up to challenges. I've seen the performances Mani Ratnam, Rajiv Menon, Rituparno Ghosh and Sanjay Leela Bhansali have got out of her in the past.
Yup, given a chance she could have a histrionic blast. The only problem is the beauty. So overpowering is her image as the country's number one brand ambassadress that we tend to discount, if not entirely dismiss, her bravura attempts to get into character.
In Raincoat, Aishwarya, in some ways, goes beyond what she did in Ghosh's Chokher Bali. It isn't because here she's required to be contemporary and rustic. Nor do I think it's because in Raincoat she was able to dub her lines in a language she understood.
It's more to do with her hunger to prove herself. All Ash has heard in the last one year is that she's a plastic non-performer.
Now as she sits over a volcano of praise she can afford to smile. "This whole beauty thing is so redundant. It's the people around me who have a problem with my looks. It's they who allow it to come in the way of assessing my performances. I never thought about how to consciously diminish my looks while playing Niroo in Raincoat. Sure, she's washed-out and faded. But when I decided to put dark circles around my eyes Ajay told me to take it easy. 'No one does all this,' he warned me. But I was just being in character."
In fact, being in character was a constant issue on the sets of Raincoat. Ghosh not only padded Aishwarya Rai to indicate a life gone to flab, he also made her wear homespun underclothes to 'feel' the part.