At Aishwaryaa Dhanush’s plush office in Chennai, one can sense an air of intelligence. On her table lie books by various authors—from the well-known Indian-American author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni to thriller writer James Patterson to novelist Wilbur Smith to the spiritual Osho. Perhaps, what is common between Aishwaryaa and Chitra Banerjee is their work. Aishwaryaa, as the United Nations Women's Advocate for Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in India, is all set to address women issues like Banerjee’s book that deals differently with Draupadi through ‘the mysterious woman’ style of narration.
Aishwaryaa had everything served on a platter—right from being a star kid, a celebrity wife, budding director, and now author of the new book Standing on an Apple Box: The story of a girl among the stars. Published by Harper Collins, the book is set to be released on December 12, Rajinikanth’s 66th birthday. Originally written as diary entries, the book features moments of her real life as a celebrity kid.
What made this star kid break the mould and set new trends in cinema? For Aishwaryaa, it was part of growing up. “I had everything I wanted, as a celebrity daughter. And now I want to tell the world the life of a celebrity kid,” she says. “Predominantly the book will talk about my father. It is a memoir.”
Through the book, she breaks the myths about being a star kid. Right from her childhood days, Aishwaryaa’s journey had not been just about being a celebrity daughter. She was raised as a child in a normal middle class family. On her 18th birthday, she wanted a gift from her dad, nothing more than to see a discotheque. “It was the best 15-minute birthday I have ever had,” she writes in her memoir. More than being the daughter of India’s biggest superstar and wife of an upcoming superstar, Aishwaryaa always wants to be herself.
Aishwaryaa feels strongly about making good cinema and creating a space for budding young directors and for junior artists in Tamil cinema, apart from building her space in the industry by penning the memoir. Her You Tube channel under the banner of Aishwaryaa's content production company Ten Entertainment encourages budding film makers. She is also working on Cinemaveeran (meaning cinema’s brave hearts), a documentary on the life of stuntmen in the cinema industry. “It is a tribute to the unsung heroes of the Tamil cinema industry,” says Aishwaryaa. With Rajinikanth’s voiceover and A.R. Rehman’s music, this is just the first of the three-part of the docu-drama which is going for censorship and recommended for a national award too. “Being brought up and being part of the fraternity I have always thought about brining to light the hardships faced by the stuntmen, junior artists and the group dancers. The next two parts will be on junior artists and group dancers,” she says.
Produced by her husband Dhanush’s Wunderbar films, Aishwaryaa feels proud about her documentary. When asked about her earlier two films, 3 and Vai Raja Vai not performing best in the box office she says: “Those were my debut projects. Next year, I would script for my next directorial venture.” Beyond cinema and her scripts, what empowers her more is her new responsibility as the UN Women’s Advocate for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in India. “I always feel that we should make women understand they have to be their own voices and should not sit back with fear. I am proud that I have been chosen for this job and even if I can hear at least 10 women go ahead in their life, by empowering them and creating awareness about gender equality among the gennext boys, I would really feel elated,” she says with a broad smile. And travelling across India, Aishwaryaa talks about girl children and female infanticide among women. “Nothing can change overnight. It would be a slow process, I know. But I have just started working with like-minded organisations,” says an overwhelmed Aishwaryaa.
But as always, for her, everything begins from home. When it comes to gender equality, too, she is determined to bring up her two sons to respect women and treat every women with utmost dignity. “Everyday, be it in personal life or in cinema or wherever I go, I ensure I move at least an inch towards women empowerment,” she says. She is proud that at home and largely within the cinema industry, she has broken the whole shackle of male domination.