Even though it has been five years since the release of her last film Guzaarish, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan says she doesn’t feel like she has been on a break from Bollywood.
Despite taking time out for motherhood, the A-list star got back into top gear quickly for her comeback movie Jazbaa, a fast-paced thriller directed by Sanjay Gupta. She plays a top lawyer who is blackmailed into defending a felon on trial for a serious crime after her daughter is kidnapped.
The popular actress was in good spirits when Eastern Eye caught up with her to talk about Jazbaa, returning to cinema, being a working mother and more.
Why have you kept a relatively low profile in recent years?
There is no plan. There isn’t any strategising. (Laughs) I believe I am very present. I do have a life and I live it as well. I have been making movies before, during and after marriage. I was present during my pregnancy, and during motherhood doing appearances and endorsements. The reason I wasn’t doing movies is because I am the kind of person who commits and I definitely respect the integrity of commitment. I am a very committed mother and a very committed professional. I will not give less of myself to either aspect of my life, so when I felt it was time I could venture out to figure out the balance, I did it.
So have you figured the balance out?
(Laughs) I am still figuring it out because life changes for a mother (constantly) – every day is a first; you have never been a mother of one, three or five-year-old before. Every day is a new day. When I felt I was able to balance is when we went ahead. We were talking six to eight months before that (about Jazbaa). When we were ready, we pressed the accelerator and were ready to roll. It all fell into place.
You have been offered a lot of projects during your sabbatical, but what made you say yes to Jazbaa?
It was an instant yes and an easy answer, and you will know why when you watch the movie. I am sure you can get a feel of it from the trailer. The subject itself is fabulous because it is a wonderful thriller. It speaks about a lot of things on a lot of different levels that are very relevant, important and meaningful. And it is the absolute language of one’s heart, so it was an easy decision, and that was coupled with the maker himself (Sanjay Gupta) and the incredible team we had on board, including Irrfan (Khan). It was like an immediate wish list when Sanjay and I were going through the script. This is the cast we saw. So being thankful is an understatement. As an actor and artist I was so grateful that all the actors consented and came on board. It has been a superlative experience.
A lot has happened in Indian cinema over the past few years. Have you felt that you were missing out?
(Laughs) Suddenly you remind me of an absence. Very honestly I haven’t felt any regrets. Of course I wasn’t making movies, but a lot of women will understand what I have experienced – that you have no concept of time and how time flies by when you are a working mother. I really didn’t delve into this absence factor and probably that’s why I haven’t focused on the comeback term. (Laughs) There is no running away from it, it will forever be my comeback film, so I am not denying it. But I haven’t felt it.
There has been a mini revolution while you were away with woman-centric films. Will Jazbaa be a part of that revolution?
When you are talking about subjects and movies getting their due, it’s always the verdict of the audience. We, as artists, don’t get into a movie compartmentalising it as any kind of ‘centric’. We just let a story unfold and get told to the viewers. I honestly don’t believe the viewers necessarily label a film, but I think once that impression is kind of set then that is the way it gets articulated.
We make movies and always hope that every movie we make appeals to viewers because that is who it is being made for. That is pretty much as innocent as our entire approach is when we make movies. If a variety of subjects today are being obviously appreciated, enjoyed by the audience, accessible to a wider, more receptive audience then that makes it a more exciting time for us. Us as in the entire team, be it the producers, actors, writers, directors. I think it is an exciting time in cinema and as creative people, we are very grateful for it. We get to enjoy a variety too.
Is this a straight remake of Korean film Seven Days?
(Smiles) I can tell you one thing. I had not seen any movie when I came on board to do this film. We received a script and did a Sanjay Gupta film. It is as clear as that.
What was the biggest challenge of playing a lawyer for you?
This is the first time that I am playing a lawyer, so obviously it did entail a certain degree of educating oneself about the life of a lawyer. What the reality is like. We have a certain impression of what a courtroom scenario is from cinema, which we have enjoyed watching for years. But Sanjay gave me a deeper insight into what the real world is like. We wanted to keep it as real as we could. That is the way we have played it – with the conviction of a lawyer.
How will this compare to other lawyer roles we have seen in Bollywood?
That is something you will have to tell me after you watch the film.
What were the preparations like with Irrfan and Sanjay before shooting commenced?
They were normal. Of course, a lot of work went in before we went on set. Once an artist always an artist. That definitely rings true and I am witness to it with my own personal experience. We don’t recognise any gaps as an artist. The joy and satisfaction we have in completing a task is difficult to explain in words.
Were there any nerves before the film came out?
I have always enjoyed the process of making a film. That is most precious to me because it is what I live with. That is my life and that is my every day. I have said this for years. We are in an industry, so of course you wait to hear that the film has made back the money invested initially and then a profit. It is gratifying for the business of cinema. When the film has appealed to your audience, it is extremely satisfying creatively. That is what we as a team always look for. We have made the baby and it’s out there to live its life. It’s like a bird, let it fly, find its journey and hopefully the flight is a wonderful one. That is what the team aspires to. It has never been about butterflies – that is consistent from my last film to this one.
What was it like working with Irrfan Khan?
Like I said, this was the dream cast for me. I am so glad he came on board because it could only have been him. It just made working every day so natural. It didn’t feel like work. He made it very relaxed and yet you know you are there to focus on work. With Sanjay Gupta you know it is a testosterone-infused movie – he brought that energy out of us every day in emotional and intense moments, which makes working together effortless. I am looking forward to many more experiences of working with Irrfan; directors and writers willing.
You sometimes appear on Twitter via your husband Abhishek Bachchan’s account. Are you gonna come on social media?
I am not on social media and haven’t been on it so far. When I go on, it is on his account sharing wishes and thanking millions of well-wishers for whom I am so grateful. Another reason why I haven’t felt the gap (of not making movies) is the love I have continued to get. I am very grateful for that. I truly mean it. I want to thank all your readers for all their love, blessings and good wishes.
Jazbaa is in cinemas now.