Aishwarya Rai: Media Maid?

BY subhash jha| IN Media Practice | 30/05/2003



Aishwarya Rai: Media Maid?



No matter how conveniently the arc lights have deflected her way Aishwarya Rai hasn’t sought the limelight. She is in fact enormously wary of being written about.



Subhash K Jha


It seems like there was never a time when Aishwarya Rai didn’t occupy centre stage in the media circus.  From the  day of her first screen appearance in Rahul Rawail’s Aur Pyar Ho Gaya, she’s been on Page 3 and , consequently Page 1.


Ironically a lot of this media glare has to do with the men in her life . Many moons ago when she was a novice in the realm of the arc lights she exchanged bitter banter through the film magazines with colleague Manisha Koirala over a boy friend (a model named Ranjiv) they had both shared.


It was the most graceless period of Ms Rai’s interaction with the media, and the point in her career when she must have decided there’s no dignity in public mudslinging.


Tragically both her subsequent men have been compulsive limelight moths. Salman Khan gets it without seeking it. Vivek Oberoi can’t live without being noticed. If one man brought her repeated pain and ignominy by continuous public humiliation, the other insists on making his presence felt in every sphere of her life.


When she broke her toe at a shooting in Nashik,  Oberoi huffed and puffed to the Mumbai airport to receive her and was by her side throughout—trembling hand clinging to her wheelchair and all. It couldn’t have been a happy circumstance for the pretty woman who likes to make a solo entry at every important gathering so that there’s nothing and no one that comes in between her and  the limelight.


She has confessed to close friends that she wasn’t very pleased with Vivek’s shocking public outburst. But on closer examination it seemed like a mighty chivalrous thing to do----one man protecting his lady against the villainous arch rival.  The image of the pale injured woman wringing her hands in the hospital as two eligible men fought for her attention was irresistable. Duels were back in fashion.


Too bad Aishwarya Rai didn’t arrange the configration of circumstances that went into portraying her as the archetypal damsel in distress. No matter how conveniently the arclights have deflected her way she has not sought the limelight. She is in fact enormously wary of being written about.


In Mumbai she talks to only a couple of journalists and that too when she needs a point to be made. I remember how willingly she spoke to me after Salman Khan had tried to break down the door of the home away from her parents which she had moved into for a while. She spoke and spoke, pausing only to plead for certain portions to be kept off the record.


Since then it became increasingly difficult for me to approach her. Either she didn’t take my calls or she fussed about negative things that I ostensibly wrote about her. The breaking point in our brittle relationship came after she lashed out in print against Salman Khan’s physical and emotional abuse.


Barely 48 hours later her real-life Devdas rammed his car into innocent pavement dwellers. To me it seemed like a suicidal defiance of a jilted lover, and I said so.


One more black star was put against my name. I was quickly gravitating into the realm of the  treacherous. But it didn’t matter. And even if it did, it bothered me only to the extent that she couldn’t see the difference between me and the magazine reporters who would cling to every word she said  and promise to project her as a glistening DIViva in the glossy pages.


Imperfection bores Aishwarya Rai. She has a constant need to reinvent herself as the devastating DIVa. Though in person she pretends to titter at description such as this , she actually revels in being  projected as a pouty princess, the ultimate beauty queen whom jealous rivals and scorned men would like to see writhing in the dust. But hey, there’s God above to protect His/Her special child.


Most of Ms Rai’s statements of good fortune in her life are preluded by the phrase, "By the grace of God…." Being perceived as "good" is all-important to her, and she would go to any extent to get there. However she isn’t a calculating shrew. There’s a core of uncorrupted selfworth in her which facilitates  her real-life role as the virtuous and envied DIVa who escapes the buri nazar of her arch rivals  by….sigh….the Grace Of God.


Let’s see how long this grace stays in place. In the coming months her career is bound to noseDIVe.  Rituparno Ghosh’s Chokher Bali and Gurinder Chaddha’s over-hyped Bride & Prejudice are the only  outstanding films in her kitty. While Arch-rival Kareena Kapoor has revised her attitude to work with every biggie from Shyam Benegal and Deepa Mehta to Dharamesh Darshan and Mani Rathnam, Ms Rai is being ultra-picky and pricey thereby putting off more filmmakers than she can pacify when the downslide begins.


Her open defiance of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the master craftsman who gave her the image of the unattainable queen in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas, is finally going to be her downfall.  Sans Bhansali she’s as bereft as a baby without its pacifier. Chances are, this consummate performer will bite her lips, wrench her hands and make up with him.  But by then Bajirao Mastani would have already slipped out of her fingers.


 Subhash K Jha writes prolifically on films. He is based in Patna. contact:



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