It’s November 1993 and Cine Blitz brings together macho star Sanjay Dutt and the dewy fresh Aishwarya Rai who is yet to make her film debut… and watches as the sparks fly!
Cine Blitz: Sanjay, when we mentioned Aishwarya’s name, you seemed to know of her. Do you already know each other?
Sanju: (Laughing) Hey! Who doesn’t know about her? Look I saw her in the Pepsi ad. In fact everyone did. Actually, my sisters like her a lot. They find her very beautiful. They’ve met her.
CB: And what did you feel when you saw her in the Pepsi commercial?
Sanju: Who’s that beautiful woman! (Aishwarya goes red.)
CB: Sanjay, what are the advantages of being a man?
Sanju: I can take my shirt off! (Aishwarya looks heavenwards and gasps)
CB: So you’d agree if someone said it’s a man world?
Sanju: No, I don’t agree to it being a man’s world, because women do a lot too! But I can say that it is a man’s industry. It’s totally male-dominated. I mean, the masses look for the hero of a movie, which only proves the point of heroes lasting longer than heroines.
Ash: It’s a fact that the world is male dominated, despite women coming more into the forefront today. Double standards do exist.
CB: Does that annoy you?
Ash: There’s nothing much you can do about it, can you?
CB: Does it upset you, being a beautiful woman?
Ash: (Slyly) If I am as beautiful as you, or people say I am, then I can make my own niche, I can make my own mark.
Sanju: Of course a beautiful woman gets her way more than a man. A man has to struggle harder, it’s more difficult for him in the world. If a girl is gorgeous, it’s well… I’m not saying it isn’t as difficult for a girl out there, but she gets her way easier.
CB: Aishwarya had earlier made a reference to double standards and men. Would you agree to it existing in the industry?
Sanju: Yes, with a man, yes. Look at me! I am a man with double standards! At least I’m honest about it, while others aren’t! I am like that. I’m more protective about my woman than she should be about me. I can take my shirt off, but she can’t wear a bikini! That’s the way I am, that’s me!
CB: Do you agree with the shirt and the bikini bit…
Ash: Very honestly, I’m an old-fashioned girl myself, so it’s not as though I’d be seen in a bikini or wear one either. It’s also that in this country, one is viewed differently. The less you wear, the less they think of you as a decent person. It’s different if wearing less is something you’re used to, or is a part of you. But one notices that many do it for the sole purpose of attention. It’s a publicity seeking gimmick nowadays with most girls in the glamour industry.
Sanju: You’ve got to love yourself to respect yourself, and for others to respect you as well! If you don’t do that, then accept the consequences.
Ash: I agree with that! Absolutely! You’ve got to respect yourself.
CB: You mean to say a woman who exposes does not love and respect herself?
Ash: I’m not standing in judgement here. But do it only if it’s called for. But if it’s being done with a purpose in mind, with the intention of exposing or showing yourself, then it’s bad. It’s not the right thing to do.
Sanju: I agree with Aishwarya. And it’s not as though they don’t respect themselves… To reach a level you can do anything. So if you want to be on the top, you may as well sleep with the top guy. I’ll give you an example. I won’t name the actress. But she did do a scene where she exposed her breasts. And she had just walked out of the premiere of the film, and there were these guys who touched her there. She did make a big scene about it, but they just turned around and said, ‘Why the hell did you show it to us on the screen? Why did you take your clothes off? It’s ours’!
CB: Would you get emotionally involved in an intimate scene? Or do you still keep part of you away?
Sanju: It depends on how you feel for the woman. I wouldn’t call it emotionally involved, I’d say one gets comfortable. In fact in my case I can’t work with a person unless I’m comfortable with them, I have to joke. I have to be mad. I have to be crazy. And she has to accept it! Otherwise I just can’t emote.
CB: Do you hurt easily, Aishwarya?
Ash: Yes, I do. In spite of a very cool front that one may try to put up, I do hurt. I’d try my best not to show what I’m feeling, publicly. That’s because I am a private person.
Sanju: My face just says it all. I really try to hide things. But if I’m upset or if I’m sulking, everyone knows. I am a transparent person. I’m the kind of person who, if I don’t like someone I’ll say it to him. I’ll ask him to get the hell out of my sight!
CB: If that’s your reaction when you’re angry, how do you flirt?
Ash: What a pointed question!
Sanju: Yeah! How do I flirt? (Looking at her) I don’t like to pile on. I like to give the person a chance to know me. I like to give her a lot of time to think about me. I love pampering. I love sending flowers. I love wooing. And just suppose she’d like to see a film of mine I’d book the whole theatre for her – just she and me watching the film together. And take her out for a quiet dinner.
CB: What do you feel about that?
Ash: I like to be wooed! (Laughing!) I think subtlety is the key word. Like he said, one shouldn’t pile on. I would instantly get put off by a person who’s making his intentions very obvious.
CB: Is it the physical aspect that attracts first?
Sanju: She has to be pretty from within. See, I think I’ve matured now that I’m 35 years old! (Aishwarya laughs) It’s a fact! Sure, I look at a pretty woman. But what draws me to a woman – her hands, her feet, her mouth, her nose… (Looking at Aishwarya who can’t stop giggling)
Ash: Well, if we’re talking purely about the physical aspect, it’s his legs and his rear side. (Now it’s Sanju’s turn to look shocked!)
CB: You mean his butt! If you’re shy about this, how do you handle the wolves in your life?
Ash: I am on guard. If it’s someone I don’t like but I still have to work with, I’d be very professional about it and do so! In other words, be diplomatic.
CB: Okay, do you think she’ll make a great star?
Sanju: Yes! She’s lovely, but I want her…
CB: You want her?
Sanju: I want her to just stick to what she’s doing.
CB: Why, because she’d get tainted in the process of becoming a heroine?
Sanju: It’s not that. But when you come into this glamour industry, it starts changing you, maturing you – that innocence is lost. That beautiful side which she has right now on her face will disappear. Because she has to handle the film world right and that is not easy to do. It’s not just the piling on, its cut-throat, it’s competitive. It’s like ‘Man I have to look better than that, I’ve gotta be there.’ You know you climb two steps and there will be like 500 people pulling you down five steps. And you become hard. And those beautiful qualities are gone. Ash: I suppose that’s true. There are so many things you’ve got to handle that I suppose it does harden you.
CB: But have you considered becoming an actress?
Ash: Yes, there have been offers. And those were the only times I gave vent to some fleeting thoughts of becoming one. But…I haven’t really given it any more thought than that. After all, one needn’t do movies just because it’s the next step after modeling. I’d only do it if I want to do it and I’m happy about taking such a step. According to me, life offers a variety of options. It’s up to the individual what he or she really wants to do.
CB: When you advised Aishwarya not to come into films, is it also due to the existence of the casting couch?
Sanju: lt’s too professional, there are no feelings existing in this industry. You’ve gotta be prepared that if you’re not doing well, nobody’s there for you. And if you are, you’ll have everyone around you. When they’re all there, it’s handled differently. But when you’re alone, it’s sad to accept the fact that they don’t want you anymore.
CB: Have you learnt anything more about Sanjay, now that the interview is over?
Ash: He’s not the kind of person he’s made out to be at all. And I very honestly do not think there’s any truth to the stories circulating about him at all. (This time it’s Sanjay’s turn to grow red and say, “Hey, that’s really sweet. Thanks a lot!”)