Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
[Photo: courtesy Daniel Bouteiller/Telé Ciné Documentation]
- Raveena Tandon, Mohra, India, 1994. Ash was contacted after the death of the original leading lady, Divya Bharti. However, Ash was busy with Miss World. Winning that title made her a VIP Bollywood commodity.
- Karisma Kapoor, Raja Hindustani, India, 1996. Famous last words... When asked to be the rich girl falling for poor boy Raja, she said: Thank you but no. The scrumptious model said she was a busy architecture student, not an actress.
- Rani Malhotra, Kuch Kyuch Hota Hai, India, 1998. Hindi auteur Karan Johar had problems finding a Tina for KKHH. He’d written her for Twinkle Khanna (the reason she’s called Tina). She refused and he went to Ash and Karisma Kapoor, Urmila Matondkar, Raveena Tandon. Then his pal, Rani, told him: “Hey, I’m the only one able to do this role.” And she did... on Scottish locations.
- Manisha Koirala, Mann, India, 1999. Ash rejected Aamir Khan’s offer to co-star as the girl on a cruise liner falling for his playboy.
- Karisma Kapoor, Hum Saath-Saath Hain: We Stand United, India, 1999. Unable to take up director Sooraj R Barjatya’s offer to play Sapna.
- Ameesha Patel, Kaho Naa... Pyaar Hai, India, 2000. Ash said no, Kareena Kapoor said yes, started shooting - and suddenly quit. And Ameesha and co-star Hrithik Roshan became overnight stars.
- Karisma Kapoor, Aashiq, India, 2001. Ash - and Urmila Matondkar - were discussed for Pooja in the Hindi film. Ash also speaks English, Marathi, Tamil and her mother tongue: Tulu, Like Shilpa and Sunil Shetty, Ash is an ethnic Bunt, who hail from . the South Indian community of Mangalore.
- Kareena Kapoor, Kabji Khushi Kabhie Gham..., India, 2001. Now it’s Karisma’s’s sister... Ash, the sumptuous Miss World 1994, was first talked of for the convoluted romance (hey it’s Bollywood), also known as K3G.
- Kareena Kapoor, Asoka (US: Ashoka the Great), India, 2001. Shah Rukh Khan, as the titular king suggested Ash as Kaurwaki but Hindi auteurSantosh Sivan preferred a change of partners for SRK.
- Kajol, Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi, India, 2001. Ash wisely rejected playing twins - Tina and Sweety - in the Bollywood rip-off of The Parent Trap.
- Mudhur Dixit, Lajja, India, 2001. Three Bollywood queens were asked to play the women Manisha Koirala meets on the road. Ash had no wish to work with her, Tabu hated her part and Karishma didn't want to work with any of them!
- Karisma Kapoor, Rishtey, India, 2002. Ash was director Indra Kumar’s first choice - no, really?! - for the beauty annoying her rich father by marrying a streetfighter.
- Amrita Rao, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, India, 2002. Helmer Rajkumar Santoshi aimed high. However, Ash was already shooting 23rd March 1931: Shaheed, 2002 - about the same revolutionary Bhagat Singh, whose popularity rivalled that of his extreme opposite: Gandhi.
- Shivani Rathod, Mulaqaat, India, 2002. The dream Hindi-Muslim couple of director K Ravi Shankar - Ash and Akshay Kumar - became Shivani and Vijay Anand.
- Preity Zinta, Koi... Mil Gaya, India 2003. India's first Science Fiction Musicalwas the only hit of a bad Bollywood box-office year - even minus the pairing the fans were crying for: Ash andIndia’sPitt-cum-Stallone, Hrithik Roshan. Pretty Preity is a friend of Roshan and his wife Suzanne Khan.
- Rani Mukherjee, Chalte Chalte, India, 2003.
“I’ve said this before,” said Rani. “I was the original choice for this role. Shahrukh Khan spoke to me about the film during Asoka. I wasn’t free, so Ash replaced me. When she couldn’t do the film for whatever reason, Shahrukh asked me... When Shahrukh asks, I can’t say no.” Or, not twice. Ash had quit after a few days’ shooting over alleged problems with co-star Shahrukh Khan. Kajol also refused him and Rani changed her tune about the role being too close to her last outing in Saathiya, 2002.
(Ash also refused to work with Salman Khan at the end of their two-year affair).
- Gracy Singh, Munnabhai MBBS, India, 2003. Rejected the lead role after Rani Mukherjee and Tabu were not free to be Chinky, aka Dr Suman Asthana.
- Rani Mukherjee, Veer-Zaara, India, 2004. Punjabi director Yash Chopra always wanted Ash as the wonderfully named Saamiya Siddiqui. Another director wanted her that year just because he wanted all his stars’ names to begin with A... Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgan, Akshay Kumar, Atul Kulkarni, Amrish Puri...
- Sushmita Sen, Main Hoon Na, India, 2004. Ash was keen on the role, not on so-starring with superstar SRK: Shahrukh Khan.
- Angelina Jolie, Mr & Mrs Smith, 2004. A married couple of assassins (he’s Brad Pitt) are hired to kill each other! Pitt quit when Nicole Kidman had to leave and returned only when her final replacement was, well… When Brad Met Angelina! Also chased in the meantime were Cate Blanchett, Eva Green, Gwen Stefani, Catherine Zeta-Jones and the unlikeliest Mrs Smith of ’em all, Bollywood’s Ash.
- Robinne Lee, Hitch, 2004. “Aw, hell no!” said Will Smith (it’s his signature line) on hearing that Ash had to pass because of Bride & Prejudice. “I really wanted to work with her. She has this powerful energy where she doesn’t have to say anything, do anything, she can just stand there. Anything she’s making, I’ll be there.” Then again, you don’t get Ash by offering a superstar... a support role.
- Diane Kruger, Troy, 2004. The Bollywood queen refused to leave her throne to be Helen….
- Rose Byrne, Troy, 2004. …much less, Briseis. And so, she lost Brad Pigtt a second consecutive time.
- Mallika Sherawat, San wa, Hong Kong, 2005. Jackie Chan craved Ash as the Indian princess but she was on tour. Mallika, a racy Halle Berry lookalike, laughed at Bollywood rumours that took she was chosen because she agreed to full frontal nudity. In a Jackie Chan movie!??
- Lisa Ray, Water, India, 2005. Lost the role of Kalyani in the end of director Deepa Mehta’s “elemental trilogy” - Fire, 1996, Earth, 1998. After shooting was disrupted by extremist forces in 2000, it was resumed four years later in Sri Lanka.
- Vidya Balan, Parineeta, India, 2005. The producer and scripter (sometime director) Vidhu Vinod Chopra wanted a box-office draw - Ash or Rani Mukherjee - as Saif Ali Khan’s girl, Lolita. Poor Vidya had to test for six months before he relented and signed her.
- Preity Zinta, Salaam Namaste, India, 2005. Pretty Preity was not forever Amber.Theexchange student, studyingmedicine and landing a radio gig with 101.5 FM Salaam Namaste...in Bollywood’s firstmovie to be shotin Australia. First offered to Ash. Quelle surprise!
- Ameesha Patel, The Rising: The Ballad of Mangal Pandey, India, 2005. As per usual, other contracts sidelined this 150 minute epic about the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. Her intended co-star, Aamir Khan, was impressed by Patel’s IQ on a BBC quiz show.
- Bipasha Basu, A Sublime Love Story: Barsaat, India, 2005. When Akshay Kumar was not free to play Arav, neither Ash or Katrina Kaif were interested in being Anna - particularly when America was played South Africa (and Mumbai studios).
- Priyanka Chopra, Bluffmaster! India, 2005. Swopsies... Ash preferred to take Priyanka’s role in Umrao Jaan. Just as Priyanka took hers in Bluff Master! Both actresses won Miss World: Ash in 1994 and Mimi (to the Chopra family) in 2000.
- Bipasha Basu, Corporate, India, 2006. Big business, Hindi style. Poor Bipasha was out of her depth and Ash sorely missed.
- Rani Mukherjee, Baabul, 2006. Passed on the role of top star Amitabh Bachchan’s daughter-in-law - which she became in real life the following year when marrying his superstar son, Abishek, over three glorious days of festivities..
- Priyanka Chopra, Krrish/There's No One Like You, India, 2006. Director Rakesh Roshan was cogitating between Ash and Amrita Rao when he saw Priyanka in Aitraaz, 2004. Game over.
- Eva Green, Casino Royale, 2006.
- Noémie Lenoir, Rush Hour 3, 2006. On his dream list, director Brett Ratner wanted the most celebrated female stars from China and Bollywood movies: Gong Li and Ash. Both passed. Easily. Neither offered role was important enough… when Ratner’s third Jackie Chan-Chris Tucker road show hit Paris.
- Charlize Theron, Hancock, 2007. “Aw, hell no!” said Will Smith - again - when told Ash was not available.
- Shriya Saran, Sivaji, India, 2007. For Bollywood, the casting saga of Sivaji’s girlfriendmatcheda Bond Girl hunt. Ash accepted Tamizhselvi to thankdirector S Shankar for making her first hit, Jeans, in 1998.Then, her superstar marriage and hectic schedule made her quit. Ayesha Taki had problems with acting in Tamil, Rani Mukerji wanted too much money and the next queue includedJyothika, Trisha Krishnan, Nayantara andSneha.
- Vidya Balan, Bhool Bhulaiyaa, India, 2007. Yet again, Ash was the inevitable first choice for Shiney Ahuja’s new bride- on honeymoon in his haunted ancestral palace.There was, however, more to this Hindi re-make of a 1993 Malayalam movie than ghosts as Akshay Kumar was more shrink than ghost-buster…
- Priyana Chopra, Dostana, India, 2008. Ash and Abhi have made eight films together (more than she has made with any other co-star) yet remainultra cautious about which scripts they accept. Ash rejected this one -as their famous couplewould have interferrredwith what was arare, serious look at homosexuality.
- Mallika Sherawat, Unveiled, 2009. Making his helming debut, American film-maker Bill Bannerman wanted (obviously) Ash (or Shilpa Shetty) for the woman stealing the identity of a New York friend. Then, he saw Mallika in her third Bollywood movie, Murder, 2004.(She laterco-starred with Ash in Guru, 2007).
- Bipasha Basu, The Lovers (UK: Time Traveller), Australia-Belgium-India, 2013. Hilary Swank talked “Bips” into taking over Ash’s Tulaja Naik in the 1778 section. Whether Basu ever forgave Swank is not (yet) on the public record. Because this was the nadir of UK director Roland Joffé’s career, shot down by Slant Magazine’s Clayton Dillard as “a shamelessly derivative and preposterous would-be blockbuster that goofily fashions itself as a sweeping romance, time-travel sci-fi tale, and gallant period piece all at once.”