Star Of The Week: Ashutosh Gowariker

IANS
12/22/2004 12:00:00 AM

Send Aishwarya Rai EcardsIt all began with an SMS - "WILL U B MY JODHA?" Aishwarya Rai got the message from director Ashutosh Gowariker while she was playing a battered wife in London for "Provoked".

"It was so sweet of him. I said of course I will... We finally met up last week here in Mumbai and shook hands on the deal," says Ash who is on vacation for a few weeks.

"My schedules on vacation are so tight - catching up with long-pending appointments, meeting old, long-neglected friends and relatives, listening to scripts - I think I need a vacation to get over my vacation!" she jokes.

Ash's schedule for the next year is airtight. She goes into Yashraj Film's "Dhoom 2" this month and then flies off for her first full-fledged international film, "Last Legion" (with Colin Firth and Ben Kingsley) in August.

Then she might squeeze in a schedule of Raj Kumar Santoshi's "Samna" (with Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgan) before, "I go straight into J.P. Dutta saab's 'Umrao Jaan'".

Wait. Don't breathe easy as yet. Because before Dutta's opulent film, Ash might do a Walt Disney film. Finally in July 2006, Gowariker gets to dress her up as the haughty and defiant Rajput princess Jodha.

Download Aishwarya Rai Wallpapers"It does look like a chock-a-block schedule," Ash admits. "But it has always been like that. Every time I think I could take a breather, some film gets delayed, or I rush into a new project, which comes out of nowhere.

"But I will concede this much... this looks like one of the most productive phases of my career... I feel as charged as I did when I did my first film 'Iruvar' or when I did 'Devdas' and 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam' with Sanjay Leela Bhansali."

An admirer of Gowariker's works, Ash is all praise for his commitment. "I love the painstaking research he does for each film. It showed in 'Lagaan' and 'Swades'.

"For 'Jodha-Akbar', he's going into reams and reams of homework. It's almost like rediscovering a whole new era with the director... a very fascinating process for any actor, specially at a time when he or she is trying to discover new facets to her personality, like I am."

Pausing for thought, she continues: "Ashutosh had made it clear from the start that it would be either a new girl or me for Jodha. I respected his clear-headed thinking. When he came to me I was delighted."

Send Aishwarya Rai EcardsHow will the two "Ash"-es be told apart on the sets?

Aishwarya bursts into peals of laughter. "I never knew people called him Ash until I was on a world tour with Aamir. I constantly heard him talking to someone called 'Ash' on the phone. Since it wasn't me I wondered who it was!"

Playing two Rajput princesses one after another is a big challenge.

"It sure is. But the Rajput princess in 'Jodha-Akbar' is as different from the one in J.P. Dutta's 'Gayatri Devi' as humanly possible. The two roles go into two different eras and sensibilities. Only the ambience is similar.

"Likewise, for my collaboration with Hrithik Roshan in 'Dhoom 2' and 'Jodha-Akbar'. We're being paired for the first time, in not one but two films that are distinctly different. I mean no two films can be more different than these."

Ash is all praise for Hrithik.

"I've done a world tour with him. He's such a focused, dedicated and passionate actor. Working with him would definitely be an enriching experience. With every film I hope to evolve as an actor. With someone like Hrithik for a co-star that process of growth becomes even easier."

Download Devdas WallpapersShe's also looking forward to working with Sanjay Leela Bhansali again.

"Of course, I am, and I am sure I will. 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam' and 'Devdas' gave a new direction to my career and personality. I want to complete at least a trilogy of films with Sanjay."