Controversy seems to be a constant companion of Ketan Mehta's The Rising.
Lead actress Aishwarya Rai quit unexpectedly just two weeks before the launch of the film. No sooner had she quit than Sahara India Parivar withdrew its association from the film. Then, co-producers Entertainment One (headed by Manmohan Shetty and Pravin Nischol) washed its hands off the film.
On Monday, on the sets of Samir Karnik's Kyun....! Ho Gaya Na, Rai disclosed that she was approached by the producers of The Rising to reconsider her decision on quitting the film.
"In the end of December, just two weeks before the mahurat of The Rising, the producers approached me and told me to reconsider my decision [to quit]. They also told me that they will apologise publicly and that they were ready to renegotiate with my agents about the price," said Rai.
Rai added, "I received the final script of the film three weeks before the mahurat of The Rising. They added that if I worked in the film, they would rework the script. Since the focus of the film was not on Jwala [the name of Rai's character in the film], I thought, 'Why should I do the film?' After all, even if I agreed, it would not mean I would increase my screen presence.
"If I had to discuss my role again with the producers, people would misunderstand me. They would think, 'Price bhi chahiye, apology bhi chahiye aur role bhi chahiye. Toh log galat samjhenge [She wants the money, apology and the role. People would have misunderstood that].' I asked them whether they had approached any other artiste. They said yes. So I simply refused to renegotiate with them."
The former Miss World admits she never expected the issue to be blown out of proportion: "The whole thing blew up in media. I wasn't here at the time [Rai was in London shooting for Gurinder Chadha's Bride And Prejudice]. So I decided to keep quiet. I would speak only when I had to."
The Rising is now produced by Bobby Bedi and Ketan Mehta. A period film about the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny and its hero Mangal Pandey, the sepoy who protested against the British, the film stars Aamir Khan in the title role. The actor is reportedly getting Rs 7 crore (Rs 70 million) for the film. Apparently, when Rai's agents asked the producers for Rs 3 crore (Rs 30 million) as her remuneration, they refused. She walked out of the film. Amisha Patel then stepped into her role. The film also stars Rani Mukerji and British actor Toby Stephens.
Rai is more than happy to talk about Kyun...! Ho Gaya Na, in which she costars with Vivek Oberoi. "I wanted a light comedy film. I wanted to have fun. You may love ten scripts but you can only do two films. I wanted a different kind of film from the others I have done. I chose Chokher Bali because it was a very intense role and required discipline in terms of work. I choose Bride And Prejudice because it was a new experience. I choose Khakee because of working with Rajji [director Rajkumar Santoshi]. Similarly, this one is because of fun and comedy."
"Comedy is difficult for an actor -- it is difficult to make other people laugh. But I think I have a good sense of humour and manage to make people laugh and make them happy. I always see the flip side, though that does not mean I am flippant," quipped Rai.
Photographs: Jewella C Miranda