DUBAI // Aishwarya Rai, one of Bollywood's best-known faces, says making the audience laugh is tough.
In Dubai yesterday with her co-star, the Indian actor Akshay Kumar, for the premiere of their Hindi-language movie Action Replayy, Rai said playing an over-the-top character was a challenge.
"Comedy is all about getting it right, getting the timing right," she says. "But in this film I play a loud character, bordering on spoofy. There is a lot of in-your-face performance keeping with the character."
Rai, 37, is one of the few Bollywood stars who has acted in international productions. She played a criminology expert last year in Pink Panther 2 with Steve Martin where a team of international detectives join up with inspector Jacques Clouseau to stop a globe-hopping thief from stealing historical artifacts.
In Action Replayy, Rai plays a domineering, bossy wife. This prompts her son to travel back in time to save himself and his parents from a life of unending bickering. A time machine formulated by his college professor is conveniently on hand to take him back to the 70s when his parents met and convert their "arranged" marriage to a love marriage, which he believes is the only way to save them. Marriages in India are often set up or arranged by parents or relatives who help to introduce the couple.
The movie is based on a theatrical production of the same name by the Indian director Vipul Shah. The extra y in the title was placed for numerological reasons to attract good luck, the director has said.
Rai was made to age in the movie where she plays a fiftysomething mum in one half of the film and a young, hip student in the other. She wore heavy greasepaint to look the part when filming first started, but better sense prevailed.
"Vipul said he didn't want us to look like patients, he wanted us to naturally age," says Rai, who has acted in about 40 films since she won the Miss World crown in 1994 and made the move from modelling. "So then we went for a subtler look with wrinkles and crow's feet, but more real," she says.
The film's launch is timed to draw Indians celebrating Diwali, one of the biggest festivals in the subcontinent .
Best known for action roles and performing his own stunts, Kumar, 43, has starred in several comedies since 2000. He agrees that keeping the audience laughing was tougher than wowing them with stunts.
"It is a huge challenge to make people laugh," he says. "It's a difficult job. This is a movie you take the family to and have a good laugh."