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March 29, 2000

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'There was this star aura attached to my name'

Why did you choose acting over so many other career options?

Aishwarya Rai in Iruvar My decisions have never been impulsive, even if they were quick. There was thought in my choices. Like I thought Iíd go in for medicine because I always loved zoology. Even today, most of my friends happen to be from medical school. Itís amazing but, when I interact with them, even they keep saying they feel Iím one of them because Iím genuinely interested in that field.

But, towards the end of 12th grade, while I was studying for my PCB which is the imperative requisite for medicine, there was a sudden change of heart. I donít know if God was putting this into my head, I felt the fact that I loved my subjects was not reason enough to make this kind of career choice.

I can be tangential sometimes. Tomorrow, I might love literature. In fact, I love English literature, but I definitely do not want to be a professor. I loved zoology. I loved the idea of service, of curing and doing something of some value to someoneís life, the entire emotional trainÖ everything. Strange as this may sound, I loved the aura within a hospital.

But, then, I went through this sudden change of heart. I thought Iím not sure if I want to do it as a career because, if I cannot be that dedicated, I would always be between the horns of dilemma through my life. I would like to be that dedicated. I think itís an amazingly sacrificing life to opt for. Iím not saying I was completely selfish or selfless in my decision.

It was then that I decided to go for a career that was a blend of art and science, since Iíve always been inclined towards the arts as well. I gave the entrance exam only in two colleges-- Rachna and J J. Anyone who wanted to get into architecture would have given exams all over India, but I gave it only in these two places. I wanted to get into Rachna and I did. Thatís how architecture happened.

Werenít you modelling even as a student?

A professor asked me to do a photoshoot for her and I agreed. She was a photojournalist. Then, all through my 12th, I refused offers. I never really got my portfolio done. But the film industry and the modelling world took well to me. I started getting offers from everywhere and, as a typical science student, I said, ĎNo way. Whatís going on? Iím supposed to be studying.í I shunned everything. But, post HSC, you get three months off. It was during this time that I did modelling for a lark.

Everybody knows what happened after that. It just went on and on and on. The industry took well to me and I caught the media's attention or rather I grabbed attention or whatever. It was symbiotic and there was attention.

Aishwarya Rai Itís amazing how, even as a model, I was around only for around a year-and-a-half before my titles happened. But, within that year, I had done most of the prestigious campaigns and there was this star aura that was attached to my name.

I was not a film star or a ramp queen although they would refer to me like that sometimes. I was not there in every designerís catalogue, I was not doing every show. I was doing only select shows since I was a student. You can probably count the campaigns I did. Just four-five major brands.

But there was this star aura around me because of which, even at that time, I started getting very good offers from films. When I rejected them, a lot of directors smiled and said, ĎYeah. Weíd like to see you become an architectí.

Shekhar (Kapur) had met me while he was making Bandit Queen and he said, ĎLook, even I have a degree in accountancy, but Iím making movies. Probably five years down the line you will become an architect, but I know youíre meant to be here.í

Even Yashji laughed and said, ĎAll right, come and deny my offers.' Theyíre all seniors in the industry and I guess they always knew. I was neither starry-eyed nor condescending towards the film industry. I just said I was not ready for films. Nobody in my family belonged here. I was a good student and I could not dream of dropping my studies. So I said no.

In a way, Iím glad I took the decision because, if I had joined the industry then, I wouldnít have joined the pageant and the titles would never have happened.

Are you enjoying being a part of the industry?

As far as I am concerned, movies today are not just dialogue kya hai, costume kya hai, make-up kya hai and go and act. I enjoy discussing things, I love this whole idea of creating things. Itís the creative aspect that I enjoy the most, the entire aura, the ambience. That excites me. Itís the whole concept of something coming out of nothing.

Iím an emotional person, so the emotions I delve into while acting give me an insight into life. For me, acting is like getting to live the lives of so many different people in so many different environments. It just makes life so exciting. At the same time, I find myself discovering so many facets of myself. Thereís a lot of me in my characters and there is also somebody else into whose skin Iím getting.

On the flip side, you are doing so many things that you didnít know you could do or you knew you probably could do but wouldnít do. Itís a very very exciting world. By the grace of God, from the onset, Iíve got the opportunity to do so many things.

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