The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Brains match beauty, on tape

Mumbai, July 14: Beauty with brains ' that’s the slogan of pageants of the type that made Aishwarya Rai famous.

Beautiful she is, as we were reminded once again last month by Harpers & Queen magazine that put her on its top 10 list.

But if the voice on the tape is hers, she has brains, too.

Aishwarya, voted Bollywood’s face in the world and a hit with photographers at Cannes, hasn’t always covered herself in glory in her interviews. Particularly when abroad.

In the alleged conversation with Salman Khan though, she scores a perfect 10.

On the hugely popular David Letterman show this year, she was asked how she broke into films. She giggled, said something and then asked him back: “How did you get into this'” On the next question, she fluttered her eyes.

Giggling and fluttering her eyes in interviews ' she was also interviewed by Bob Simon on CBS 60 Minutes as well as by the hostess with the mostest Oprah Winfrey ' has got her much bad press. But that was in the public domain.

In private, she handles herself remarkably well when Salman Khan, her supposed lover, is allegedly threatening her in the coarsest language and ordering her to perform at a gangster’s show.

She hardly speaks. When she does, it is either to ask Salman to calm down or to tell him not to push her beyond a limit.

“You f****** bitch. Are you doing the Abu Salem show or not'Salman allegedly asks her.

Oh really. You got drunk,” is the response.

Early in the conversation, she tells him his phone could be tapped.

The tape allegedly dates back to 2001, when the film industry was under the scanner for its links with the underworld. Salman, whose film Chori Chori Chupke Chupke was linked to underworld don Chhota Shakeel, was among the actors to be questioned by police.

If the tape turns out to be genuine, Salman could be in trouble for flaunting his connections with the underworld but the woman being referred to as “Ash” on the tape emerges unscathed. “Salman Khan. Stop all this rubbish. What is this'she tells him.

“I really don’t have any interest in the underworld and who is in it or not, but if Aishwarya is smart enough not to get involved with it, good for her,” says VJ and actor Gaurav Kapoor.

“She has displayed enormous maturity, sobriety and non-excitability in the middle of a highly provocative conversation,” says writer-commentator Shobhaa De.

“She is a very intelligent and articulate person. She is no bimbette. But when she is travelling abroad, she assumes the persona of a bimbette. It is strange that she does so.”

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