April 29, 2010 – Bollywood’s leading couple, Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai, are teaming up for their first film together in two years, hoping to harness the power of the Internet to make it a box office hit.
“Raavan,” with music by Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” composer A.R. Rahman, is a modern-day take on The Ramayana epic of Hindu mythology, which sees Raavan, ruler of Sri Lanka, abduct the wife of Lord Ram, Sita.
The couple star as an on-screen couple, Beera and Ragini, and have described the film, which hits screens next month, as their most challenging to date.
The Hindi-language movie is largely set in the sweltering jungles of central Madya Pradesh state, and the actors braved snakes, leeches and stood for hours under waterfalls during shooting.
“After a point, we stopped acting. We are just reacting naturally,” Bachchan, 34, told reporters in Mumbai last weekend.
Bachchan and Rai were last seen together on the big screen in “Guru” in 2007 and the thriller “Sarkar Raj” (Rule of the Overlord) in 2008.
“Guru,” said to be loosely based on the life of tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani, was a hit — attributed in part to interest in the couple before their high-society wedding that year — while “Sarkar Raj” was only a moderate success.
Like an increasing number of Bollywood stars, Bachchan is using the microblogging site Twitter to promote the movie and has posted a link for a promotional clip on the video-sharing site YouTube.
The clip, already seen by more than 200,000 people, shows Bachchan jumping from a cliff into a river.
“It is a new medium and a direct way to communicate with fans. By doing so you create awareness among your fans,” he said. “In just two days ‘Raavan’ promos got more than two lakh (200,000) views.”
Bachchan is the son of screen legend Amitabh Bachchan and his actress wife Jaya, while Rai is a top model and former Miss World.
As part of Bollywood’s “first family”, they attract a fanatical following in movie-mad India, but scrutiny of their private lives and love of the show-business social circuit have often eclipsed their acting roles.
Bachchan starred with his mother in the high-profile science-fiction flop “Drona” (Saviour) in 2008, before seeing more success in “Paa” (Father) with Amitabh, about a child with a rare rapid ageing condition.
The film brought Bachchan senior a best actor gong at the Filmfare Awards, India’s equivalent of the Oscars, although the family boycotted the ceremony in a row over media reports on Rai’s health and whether she could have children.
Rai, 36, was recently seen in “The Pink Panther 2,” a remake of the classic Peter Sellers films and continues modelling work as the face of a major cosmetics company.
Like “Guru,” “Raavan” is directed by Mani Ratnam and Bachchan is hoping it is a good omen.
“Whenever my career is on a downswing I get a Mani Ratnam film and I am back on the upswing,” he said. “I hope he takes me in his next film too.”
Bachchan has nearly 160,000 followers on Twitter and has been updating them on the progress of shooting.
A Tamil-language version of the film, called “Raavanan,” is also being made and it will be dubbed into Telugu to tap into the lucrative south Indian market.