BORN AND MARRIED INTO THE INDUSTRY, AISHWARYAA FEELS IT IS DAUNTING TO CONSTANTLY BE MEASURED AGAINST HER FATHER AND HUSBAND’S ACHIEVEMENTS
household”, she insists. Her mother, Latha Rajinikanth, was very particular about shielding her children from the pomposity of public persona and took extreme measures to give them “as normal a life as possible”, she says.
The book, much like her, is earthy, simple and sincere, a heartfelt attempt to deconstruct the life of a celebrity child, woven together like a diary of memory sequences, much like you would expect in a movie that plays out through a series of flashbacks.
Books, she admits have always been a refuge. A self-confessed introvert, she insists, “It’s just so much easier to gather my thoughts on paper; later, I may even tear up what I have written, but at least for the moment I have managed to express it and it’s found a way out of my head. That’s the thing about writing; it’s cathartic.”
Writing may provide solace, but the multi-talented author wears many hats admirably. The 36-year-old is also a filmmaker, who has just announced her third film, a bilingual biopic titled
Mariyappan, on the life of 21-year-old Tamil paralympic high jumper Mariyappan Thangavelu, a talented Bharatnatyam dancer, playback singer and more recently, the UN advocate for women’s rights and empowerment. If asked to choose her favourite, it’s being a mother to her boys, Yatra, 10, and Linga, 6, that she enjoys the most.
But growing up in a strict household, she has imbibed a lot of her mother’s parenting style. “When we were young, I had a lot of complaints, as anyone that age does, especially when you see your friends doing certain things, which you were simply not allowed to do. My sister, Soundarya, and I have never had a sleepover at a friend’s place. Our curfew was 6 pm, and even if we did step out, we always had an escort, either a relative or a staff member, coming along.”
But today, she says she understands the things her mother did and does the same or maybe more with her children. “They’ll probably call me Hitler, if you ask them,” she adds. But “things are much more challenging as a parent these days, so it’s important to make them understand why it’s necessary to strike a balance between being as normal as possible and yet be responsible for their station in life.”
While children are clearly her priority, she says dance is what comes to
her most naturally. “It is very empowering, it’s an art form that lends itself to self-expression through perspective that allows you a bit of leverage, without straying from the boundaries of tradition.” That’s why, “my mother insisted that I learn classical dance.”
Of course, filmmaking seemed like a logical option because “I was born in the industry and then married into it as well,” but whereas her father and husband chose to be in front of the camera, she opted to exhibit her talent behind the camera. “That needed a bit of practice, of being around and learning and observing,” she admits. While husband Dhanush is a multifaceted Tamil film luminary, who has acted in over 25 films and is due to start work in a Hollywood production early this year, Aishwaryaa is all of two films old. Her first film, a psychological thriller, 3, in which she directed her husband, Dhanush, was a rather serious film that spoke about bipolar disorder and a love story revolving around that predicament. Apart from the unusual plot line, Dhanush sang the infinitely hummable Why This Kolaveri Di, which instantly went viral and became an anthem of sorts. Her second venture was more of an adventure that focussed on deja vu and premonitions. “I am very intrigued by the mind and my films tend to explore some aspect of psychology. Whatever the plot, I like to work in different genres; when I sit down to write, I want to do something new, present something unique.”
Of course, coming from the industry made cinema a familiar forte, but she insists it isn’t as easy as people make it out to be. “People think we have everything laid out for us on a silver platter. But that isn’t true. For instance, if I have a good script and I approach an actor, his first response is, why haven’t you asked the two in your own house. But that’s not how it works.”
So, what is it like to be ‘Thalaiva’s’ daughter? “He is really just Appa to us,” she explains simply. “But, it’s all about finding the right perspective; it’s a package deal. There are some things you get and some you don’t. Privacy is a huge problem as is expectation. Mistakes and slip-ups are human frailties that are a luxury we can scarcely afford. If we go wrong, there is a disproportionate amount of backlash and criticism.” Of course, there’s always the thought of being overshadowed by “such looming personalities; everything you ever do is, and always will be, measured against their stupendous achievements, which is a daunting task.”
Then there are those who can’t understand why she wants to work at all instead of relaxing at home and taking care of the children and shopping. “It’s so difficult to explain that it’s about individuality, about doing something for yourself; finding your niche in the world, however big or small.” “I can’t match up to what my father has achieved or even my husband for that matter, but the very fact that I am out there writing books, making films, dancing, representing reputed organisations such as the UN, is in itself a show of strength and support from my family, including my sons. The men in my life are true feminists, and that’s how I am raising my sons too,” she says.
“Feminism is not the same as it was two decades ago; it has to relate to the changing circumstances. We are already equals; the minute you admit that you are not on a level-playing field, you paint your self as the victim. It’s not about battling for equality; it’s about spreading awareness that we are equals.”
Clearly, despite her sheltered upbringing, the multi-talented and multi-layered, Aishwaryaa has discovered her spot in the sun. Truly, the apple has fallen far from the tree.
Aishwaryaa with husband Dhanush
Aishwaryaa with her father Rajinikanth