I'm not running to Hollywood, says Ash

Aishwarya Rai, India's world-wining beauty, could soon be acting opposite Hollywood superstar Michael Douglas. But despite the accolades, foreign shores do not hold her enthralled, she insists in this interview...
You have just returned from your world tour with Hrithik and other filmstars. How was the response?
The tour was very hectic but went off quite well. I travelled all across the US and received a warm welcome everywhere. We had a great time though even though it got a bit tiring as I had to also fly down to Cannes for the film festival.

You were in Cannes for only a day this year. Why?
I was in Cannes purely as a brand ambassadress for L'Oreal. Despite my commercial association with the company, I had been unable to devote any time to them last year because of my duties as a jury member. Therefore this time I flew down even though I was on a world tour.

During the day I spent in Cannes, I had to represent the L'Oreal brand, do all their presswork and also walk the red carpet with the other brand ambassadresses who are part of their international dream team.

What Hollywood projects are you currently working on?
I've just finished shooting for 'Bride and Prejudice', a re-working of the Jane Austin classic, directed by Gurinder Chadha. At the end of this year I will start work in 'Chaos' opposite Meryl Streep to be directed by Coline Serreau.

There's also Roland Joffe's 'Singularity' and Barton Randall's 'I Know a Place'. I will end the year with Gurinder Chadha's 'Mistress of Spices'.

With such a strong presence in foreign productions, does it mean you will be saying goodbye to Bollywood?
Not at all, that will never happen because I absolutely and thoroughly love working here and Bollywood will always be a priority. I can't see myself not working here and perhaps it's been evident from the kind of roles I've chosen to do all along.

The characters I've essayed are all so intrinsically Indian. In fact I have been telling my well-wishers, fans and the media that the only reason I'm taking up international projects is because I'm thankful to God for the opportunity I've got so far.

I never approached Hollywood with stardust in my eyes. I started receiving very positive response from abroad after 'Devdas' was screened at Cannes and I've now got an agent and get scripts from time to time.

However one thing is clear - I will work in an English film only if I like the script, or the character is one that I would love to portray or because it's a director I want to work with. I have no intention of running away to Hollywood because it has opened its doors to me. I treat foreign films just like my other assignments in Tamil or Bengali cinema. My reasons haven't changed.

Recently there were rumours that you are planning to settle down in London. How true is that?
Not true at all. It was a clear case of miscommunication and some misunderstanding. I love it here in Mumbai and can't imagine staying anywhere else in the world.

Since we need to travel so much in our line of work, we always look forward to returning home. There's absolutely no question of settling down anywhere except India.

You will soon be working with Hollywood superstar Meryl Streep. What's the project all about and what are your expectations from it?
I'm starring opposite Meryl Streep in 'Chaos' to be directed by French director Coline Serreau. The film is supposed to start at the end of this year and I'm really looking forward to it. I'm very excited about the opportunity of working with Meryl as I admire her a lot.

You met up with Michael Douglas recently. Are the two of you working together?
It's true I did meet Michael in Los Angeles when I was there this time. The script seemed really very nice, but they preferred to keep the announcement on hold until the team does it together because it is still very premature.

Although the script still needs to be polished, we all agreed in our initial meeting that we liked the idea of working together and that the script could be made into a nice film. So until they get everything together like the production aspects and zeroing in on the choice of director from the 2-3 options they are toying with, I think we should all wait for the official announcement to really come from them.

I must state here that after the James Bond rumour (which should get the life time achievement award for the longest running rumour!), I'm treading very carefully because even in Hindi films, I've never been the kind to say that I was the original choice for this film.

So I'd like to wait for an official announcement with the team once everything is finalised. I've done that here and I'd do that with any film that I work with. But the meeting was nice, very positive - there's no doubt about it.

What are your forthcoming Bollywood films?
There's 'Kyun Ho Gaya Na', then there's 'Bride and Prejudice' and later Rituparno Ghosh's 'Raincoat' that are all expected to be released this year.