How did you get associated with Smile Train come?
Nearly a decade ago, they approached me to draw attention to their ongoing work. I am pleased with my decision of warming up to the idea of giving momentum to it. To work with people who help kids born with a cleft is a blessed opportunity. I already had the Aishwarya Rai Foundation, through which I had been working with innumerable causes that need aid and attention.
So, we joined hands to help these children. I’ve never felt the need to announce what we did through my foundation until the recent times as with the impact of social media, the world is becoming smaller. Information, if channelised positively, can be effective. So after actualising say 100 surgeries, I chose to announce these contributions as by doing so you have the ability to influence people, who are listening to contribute to changing a child’s life. It’s not just about correcting a cleft but also about the way of life from eating to talking to their personality — things we take for granted.
The media attention on your father’s birthday in November last year got out of hand. Does it get difficult to handle the media at a public event?
It’s a trick question. It’s tough to explain. I understand and recognise what was happening at that moment — the media wanted their bytes and photos. While I am familiar with the way things function, there was not much space and several kids and their parents were in the room. These kids and their parents are not used to dealing with excitement and got startled [with the media’s behaviour]. That’s when I spoke up. I knew the next day the headlines would be ‘Aishwarya got upset’. I’ve never been one to blame anybody and I don’t. I try to appeal to the human nature of people in times like that.
Does Aaradhya understand the attention she gets?
I haven’t made a conversation out of it. She is a child and I can’t casually say that she understands it. It can never be normal as there is nothing normal about it. Aaradhya has seen it [the attention] since she was a baby, while I was exposed to it only in my twenties.
Is it normal to her? I don’t know. It can’t be normal to see human beings behave strangely. But also it’s not like she woke up one day and experienced it. She has seen crowds outside our gates, media outside the airports and I would like to believe that she realises that it happens sporadically. I have been a very normal mother with her throughout. I have gone with her everywhere. I go to her school every day. I have done normal things with her like taken her to the park, visited temples, gone to the supermarket etc., so that she understands what ‘normal normal’ is and what social excitement is.
Your next movie Fanne Khan co-starring Anil Kapoor is already creating a buzz...ery normal mother with Aaradhya: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
I am a chapter in the film, not the fulcrum. There are other talents in the story as well and you will see why I chose to do the film once it releases. I am working with Anil for the third time and though I want to call him Anilji, he insists I call him Anil (smiles). He is such a dedicated and ever-charged artiste. Rajkummar Rao has come on board and it is interesting to work with such different energies.
In your career, there have been multitudes of adjectives describing your beauty. Have you ever felt the pressure to look a certain way?
Compliments have always made me shy and I have cultivated an ability to graciously say ‘thank you’. But, I don’t quite completely believe them. That’s the way I can embrace the normal in life. On-camera looks are always about the character and off-camera appearances depend on the occasion. That’s why I travel light and there is no question of any pressure.
Are you doing the remake of the Nargis-starrer Raat Aur Din (1967)?
There are many scripts that come my way. And as an idea this is an interesting concept for an actor to work on. But lI am waiting for all of it to come together.
Often, there are rumours about movies starring you and Abhishek [Bachchan; husband]...
Yes, we have been offered movies together but an announcement can be only be made once the script is finally locked. Even before a decision can be made, stories do float around.