The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ash dropped over Rising fees
- Ameesha picked for role opposite British actor

Mumbai, Nov. 14: Bollywood’s newly forged connections with Hollywood may not lead to a happy marriage.

Aishwarya Rai has been thrown out of The Rising, rumoured to be the biggest Bollywood project till date, for wanting to double her fees on the advice of her Los Angeles agent.

“We have dropped her from the film because she wanted to renegotiate the deal,” producer Bobby Bedi said. “She wanted to double her earlier fees after signing the agreement.”

He added the actress wanted to hike her price through her Los Angeles-based agent, William Morris, “while her Indian agent asked her to stick to her original price”. “It could be because she has found an international status,” Bedi said.

Aishwarya reportedly signed up for the initial fee of Rs 1.5 crore while the film’s hero, Aamir Khan, was said to be charging Rs 7 crore. The discrepancy between the fees could have also led to her decision, an industry person said.

Aishwarya, earlier dropped from Shah Rukh Khan’s and Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s projects, has been replaced by actress Ameesha Patel. In the film, an epic based on the first War of Independence of 1857, Aamir plays the role of Mangal Pandey and British actor Toby Stephens is cast as Pandey’s friend, Captain William Gordon of the British army.

Ameesha, like Aishwarya earlier, is said to have been cast as the Indian love-interest of Gordon. The film is being directed by Ketan Mehta.

Aishwarya’s Indian agent, Hari Singh, who was looking after the account at the time of sealing the agreement, agreed that the entry of the foreign agent into the Bollywood arena may have led to her exit.

“Aishwarya signed the agreement here before she went to the Cannes Film Festival. But then there was the proposal to make it in both Hindi and English and promote it like an international project. From then on, William Morris started handling this account,” said Singh, who now has handed over the papers to Morris.

Morris, appointed a few months ago to handle the actress’ international projects, is based in Los Angeles, where Aishwarya is currently shooting for Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice. They were negotiating with Bedi, based in Delhi, from the US city on Morris’ first project with Aishwarya. “The whole account is being handled from Los Angeles,” Singh said.

As the film was also being made in English, Rai wanted to extract a better deal, trying to cash in on her “international” status, an industry person said.

“I don’t know what led her to want to renegotiate the deal, but I don’t deny what Bobby Bedi says,” Singh said.

“I did ask her not to quote a higher price after signing the agreement, because such things are not looked at nicely in Bollywood. It’s possible that her Los Angeles agent doesn’t know the workings of Bollywood. He knows the value of dollars, not rupees,” Singh added.

“Her not being in the project will be as much a loss for her as for the producers,” he said. “The film is so big that it would have been good for her image, and her stature as a star would have been an asset for the film.”

Bedi, however, said her absence would not matter. “The film is bigger than Aishwarya.” He added the shooting would also not be hampered in any way by her departure.

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