Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan still struggles with is the public displays of affection so commonly seen on the silver screen.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan had her first screen kiss with actor Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom 2 in 2006, but admits she is still less than comfortable with the prospect of such intimate scenes.
In an new interview with Sir David Frost, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan said that the scene caused such a stir in India that she even received legal threats following the movie’s release.
She said: “I did it once prominently in the movie Dhoom and it was so topical, and you’ll be surprised, I mean I actually got a couple of notices, legal notices, from some people in the country turning around and saying <<You are iconic, you’re an example to our girls you have led your life in such an exemplary manner, they’re not comfortable with you doing this on screen so why did you?>>.
“And I was like wow, I’m just an actor, doing my job, and here I am being asked to offer an explanation for a couple of seconds in a two, three hour piece of cinema.”
But Aishwarya Rai Bachchan also said that she had many doubts about signing up to appear in Dhoom 2 simply because of the kissing scene.
She said: “It was around the same time that the interest in the western world from Hollywood, or European cinema, English cinema, from the industry there was a lot interest in me and the possibility of me working overseas, and I had already declined a couple of scripts purely on the basis of not being comfortable with the very physical scenes and the kissing because I’d never done that on screen and I just wasn’t very comfortable with the idea. And I was quite sure even my audience was not very comfortable with me doing it on-screen. I was actually quite convinced about it but I still said okay, if I have to go down this path let me first do it in our cinema, in an Indian piece of cinema, and let me see if all my doubts are true, and they were.”
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan had her first screen kiss with actor Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom 2 in 2006
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan added that while on-screen kisses are becoming more common in Bollywood, it will still be a long time before they become the standard.
She said: “A lot of actors have kissed before that movie, they continue to kiss on screen till this very minute, but public display is not that common in Indian culture. Even our actors, it’s very rare that actors look comfortable in our cinema on screen kissing.
“It almost looks like it’s a planned moment, just to make much ado about a moment or to excite the audience. It’s made into this separate entity from a scene, it’s not very comfortable in our screenplay.”
However, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan explained to David Frost that passion in Bollywood is expressed via different means – through song and dance.
She said: “What the kiss is in the western movies is what our songs do, and that’s where our audience experiences all the emotions that the western audience does when their actors kiss. So that’s a very comfortable space for us but I don’t think the kiss visually has been.
“It’s getting there, I mean now it’s become very, very common so I think, I think, I still think our audience is getting comfortable with it, but I don’t think universally.”
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is a former Miss World, a successful Bollywood star and married to the son of one of India’s best-loved stars.
She found international fame in the Hollywood film Bride and Prejudice, and Julia Roberts billed her as the world’s most beautiful woman.
Thanks to the notoriety such fame and fortune has brought her, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has become one of the most admired and revered women in India, and indeed the world. But such fame has come at a cost for the 38-year-old star.
Since the birth of her daughter in November last year, Aishwarya Rai has been open about the fact that she is in no hurry to lose the few extra pounds she gained during her pregnancy.
The model and actress, who won the Miss World title in 1994, defended her choice, saying she wanted simply to “enjoy motherhood”.
But with the star, who married Abhishek Bachchan, the son of India’s most loved film star Amitabh Bachnan in 2007, tipped for her 10th appearance at Cannes next week, furious speculation is mounting as to how she will look.
Since the birth of her daughter in November last year, Aishwarya Rai has been open about the fact that she is in no hurry to lose the few extra pounds she gained during her pregnancy
Commentators have been unkind, lambasting the star for letting her fans down.
Many have gone a step further, suggesting the star has a “duty” to her fans to regain her pre-pregnancy figure.
One website posted a video of the star looking less than her usual svelte self, flicking between photographs of her pre-birth, and photos now.
Called “Aishwarya Rai’s shocking weight gain”, the clip, which came accompanied by elephant sound effects, has been seen more than 500,000 times.
Dozens more videos in a similar vein have been posted, each with viewing figures in the tens or hundreds of thousands.
Comments left after the video prove that many of those watching have little sympathy for Aishwarya Rai.
“She is a Bollywood actress and it is her duty to look good and fit,” one said.
Another added: “She needs to learn from people like Victoria Beckham who are back to size zero weeks after their delivery.”
It has opened up a debate in the country, and beyond, about the attitudes held towards women in the public eye.
“Aishwarya is like a goddess,” said showbusiness columnist Shobhaa Dé in the New York Daily News by way of explanation.
“She is held up as the ideal of beauty and so there is an expectation on her to look perfect at all times.”
“The role models being held up are Angelina Jolie and Victoria Beckham, but our body frames are different – we have wider hips and curves – so this whole business of looking desperately skinny two weeks after giving birth is a western import.”
Cinema professor Shohini Ghosh added that women in India were up against an almost impossible task.
“There is a glorification of motherhood in India and Indian cinema,” he told the paper.
“But people are confused because they don’t know whether to glorify Aishwarya in her new motherhood or lament that she is not looking like a runway model.”
It’s safe to say that far too many fall into the latter category, judging by the cruel comments flooding internet sites.
Some, however, have come out in defense of the star, saying that she, like any new mother, should be focusing on her infant, not her diet.
“She is a real women looking after a baby. We should be concern for her health and happiness especially if she is nursing the baby. Not the Western belief of expecting people in the spot light to lose all weight in month. If she dieted what will happen to the baby’s diet,”one said.
“That’s because Aish is not one of those selfish ones who puts the focus on their bodies instead of their babies, which makes them moody and ineffective as parents,” another said.
“Kudos to you Aish for keeping it real and letting your baby have all the bonding and attention she needs with you. Enjoy your life.”