Missing in action: Abhishek!

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By The Telegraph Online
  • Published 24.02.09

t2 gets you the first look of what Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has been up to as Sita in Mani Ratnam’s film before her real-life Ram (!) Abhishek Bachchan arrives to play her reel-life Raavan....

Hair tied in a long plait, bindi and golden jhumkas in place, a cleavage-baring Aishwarya Rai Bachchan looks fetching in a dark salwar kameez under the bougainvillae shade on the riverfront. She is standing on a makeshift platform at one end of Saheb Kuthi, the bungalow in Agarpara where Mani Ratnam is shooting his Raavan in Hindi and Ashokavanam in Tamil. Ash is Sita in both versions. Saturday saw her busy with a song-and-dance routine that began in the first-floor naachghar, moved to the ground-floor kitchen and then continued by twilight on the wooden platform with a round marble-top table and chairs, stem glasses, candles and a harmonium. (Picture by Pranab Biswas ) Dressed in a white cotton kurta Ash lets her wet hair down as she begins to sway to the tunes of an A.R. Rahman song while Vikram (Ram in Raavan) pours himself a drink, with a beedi lit with the flame of a candle tucked between his lips.
Trying to shun the sun with a dupatta wrapped around her head, danseuse-and-actress Shobana (left) was seen guiding Ash through her classical moves. The man with the salt-and-pepper hair on the right is Bunty Aur Babli director Shaad Ali, who had previously assisted Mani Ratnam on Dil Se and Guru and is back to help out Mani Sir. In the serene silence of a February late afternoon by the Hooghly, Ash practises her dance steps for the next shot with one of Shobana’s dance assistants looking on admiringly.
Ash repeated the flirtatious dance sequence with Prithviraj (Ram in Ashokavanam) who wore the same kind of brown full-sleeved T-shirt as Vikram but was clean-shaven. Ash was playful and coquettish while the two men were macho and nonchalant.
Ash walks up to director Mani Ratnam who waits for the sets and lights to be rearranged while clutching on to a hand-held mike he has been using all day to voice instructions. After half-a-dozen takes in both the Hindi and Tamil version, Ash then decided to take a stroll with fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee. Spot Ash through the foliage as she gets busy in the kitchen at Saheb Kuthi.