Mani Ratnam to direct Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan?

Reports are that ace director Mani Ratnam is planning a new Hindi film with Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan in the lead.

Reports are fuelled by the news that last week Ratnam was in Mumbai to give finishing touches to this ambitious project titled Guru .

Ash and Abhishek were earlier paired in Kuch Naa Kaho and are now doing J. P. Dutta's Umrao Jaan .

Rumors are also rife that the Junior Bachchan will have two heroines in the film - Ash and Vidya Balan and the search for the antagonist is on, and John Abraham seems to be the front-runner.

A R Rahman will be the music director with Gulzar's lyrics. Rajeev Menon will be the cameraman and he is teaming up with Ratnam after 10 long years after 'Bombay'.

Anurag Kashyap will helm the Hindi dialogues and the film is set in Mumbai.

With 'Guru', which will go on the floors in March, Ratnam hopes to prove his detractors wrong that he has not been able to taste commercial success in Bollywood so far.

Aishwarya and Abhishek's romance?

Abhishek will marry a girl that his parents approve of, and Jaya aunty does not believe Rani is right for him. She has voiced her opinion to Abhishek. In fact, AB, in a way, likes to add fuel to this Rani link-up so that the Ash angle can be put under cover From the sets of Umrao Jaan in Jaipur to Mumbai, everyone is talking about Bollywood's latest romance - Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan.

Ash and Abhishek's friendship began on the sets of their film together - Kuch Na Kaho.

Even during her Viveik phase, Ash kept in touch with Abhishek. The actress used to SMS him frequently. When the Oberoi love story ended, this friendship got a new start.

They spent a lot of time away from home at the sets of Umrao Jaan and discovered that they had deeper feelings for each other. The film's unit returned from Jaipur to Mumbai full of Ash-Abhishek kissas.

Since Ash and Abhishek have been shooting for J P Dutta's Umrao Jaan in Jaipur, Rajashthan for more than a month we decided to ask Dutta's wife Bindiya who is in town for a day.

Are Ash and Abhishek dating each other? There is a moment of stunned silence and then Bindiya laughs, 'I am not in a position to comment about it.' She adds diplomatically, 'I have been too busy with the shooting to notice anything much.'

The first sign that Abhishek was serious was when he invited his new good friend to the Bachchan residence for dinner. A family friend of the Bachchans confirms, 'The whole Rani-Abhishek thing is untrue.

He is only interested in her as a friend. Abhishek will marry a girl that his parents approve of, and Jaya aunty does not believe Rani is right for him. She has voiced her opinion to Abhishek. In fact, AB, in a way, likes to add fuel to this Rani link-up so that the Ash angle can be put under cover.

Ash mom and Jaya aunty have met and discussed a possibility of turning Ash-AB relation into something more concrete. In fact, Jaya aunty has already approved Ash and keeps pleading her case to AB.

There are people on both sides who definitely want this marriage to happen. We also hear that Jaya took the janam patrikas of Abhishek and Aishwarya and showed it to a family pandit.

AB wants to take more time after learning from his Karisma Kapoor experience.

He wants to be sure than Ash is genuinely interested in him. As opposed to Ash, he has not been linked to many women in his career, so he wants to be ultra-careful about the whole thing.

However, Abhishek has confessed his feelings for Ash to some close friends. She was a huge moral support for him in the days when Amitabh was hospitalised and they were constantly in touch on the phone.

Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan may be an 'item' in 2006

The New Year may bring news of Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwarya Rai becoming an 'item' says news reports! The fact that Kajrare Tere Kare Kare Naina, their item number in Bunty Aur Babli is the biggest hit of the year has added a zing to this news!

It is widely known that the Big B has a soft corner for Aishwarya Rai, not only because she is one of the world's most beautiful women, but also because she has shown exemplary courage and done extremely hard work to create her international career. She is a woman of few words and her silences speak volumes. She never makes irresponsible remarks. She never takes on sleazy roles, which demand a big skin show. Now, with the maha-big success of the song 'Kajrare Tere Naina' from Bunty Aur Babli - in which the Big B, Abhishek Bachchan and Ash danced the item number together to the year's most popular song.

Abishek and Ash have done two films together until now - Kuch Na Kaho and Dhai Akshar Prem Ke and though both were duds at the Box Office, their chemistry was unmistakable. Now news says that Vivek Oberoi and Ash have cooled off their relationship and 2006 may well see the top heroine and would-be superstar of Bollywood hitching up as a 'couple'. All the two young people say is that they are 'serious' about their friendship.

Aishwarya Rai not in Asterix and Obelix film

Hollywood trade sources have refuted reports that the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai is acting in the new Asterix and Obelix film.

Reports in this regard appeared in several sections of the media that Ash stars in the film, which also stars martial arts star Jean Claude van Damme.

The sources said the film, shooting for which is scheduled to begin in March, does not star Ash.

"The movie is set to begin filming around March 2006 in Tunisia and Morocco without the Bollywood Beauty",the sources said.

Earlier media reports had said Ash was tipped to act in the new Asterix and Obelix film.

The reports, that appeared in several sections of the media during the international film festival of India in Goa in November, had said that an entirely new part may be written for the Indian beauty in the film version of 'Asterix and Obelix at the Olympic games', which does not have any main female characters.

The 70-million-budget film will have Van Damme playing the Roman legionary gluteus Maximus, who represents Rome at the games.

The premiere of the Hindi version of 'Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra' was held at the Goa international film festival of India (IFFI) on December 3 as part of the beach cinema.

Aishwarya places second in Zoom's Most Desirable Woman List

The much-anticipated topper in India's 50 Most Desirable Woman list, collated as part of the Red Hot Countdown Series, telecast on Zoom India's premier glamour and lifestyle television channel. And it's no surprise really that India's hottest female alive is Bipasha Basu! She's managed to beat out impressive blue-blooded competition from green-eyed beauties such as Aishwarya Rai, Rani Mukherjee, Kareena Kapoor, Lisa Ray and several heartbreakers. The Red Hot Countdown series will be telecast Saturday & Sunday at 1930 Hrs till mid- February.

The final 50 zoomed into place with a combination vote based on online surfer's choice on and a secret celebrity and media jury. Aishwarya Rai, a winner in online polls several times earlier still proved that she was a beauty of caliber with a much-envied second spot, winning the accompanying online poll. Priyanka Chopra was voted third while oomph queen Mallika Sherawat and sensual beauty Sushmita Sen stood fourth and fifth respectively.

The only non-Bollywood bombshells in the top 25 were TV anchor Shonali Nagrani, supermodel Deepika Padukone and to an extent Kamal Sidhu - proving that when it comes to desirability, Bollywood still has them panting.

Star of the show, Bipasha Basu was far too overwhelmed to articulate. The actress remained as firmly rooted as always when we quizzed her on making it to the top of the hottest. "It's a huge compliment to me," she laughed, evidently touched by the response. "It's thanks to my loyal fans and I want them to know that I appreciate their love."

Bips beat the likes of Ash (who's topped this list on several times in the past), Kareena and Sush, not to mention a bevy of beauties from various other fields - from socialites to sports personalities, to become hottest Indian female alive in a list of 50 selected by Zoom - India's premier glamour and lifestyle TV channel.

"I still think Aishwarya is the one of the most beautiful women I have seen," insists Bipasha. "Although Rani Mukerji is my favourite actress because she is really good when it comes to performing on-screen, I've seen Black - Ash beats everyone when it comes to looks."

"However, the desirability factor also encompasses various other elements such as your overall personality and intelligence, not to mention your screen image, and that is the reason I am really touched by this decision."

Upen Roop Rai, COO Zoom, says, "Over the last one year Zoom has established itself as the final authority on everything in the glamour & lifestyle arena. With the Red Hot Countdown, that debuts this year on Zoom, we are reiterating our position. The validity of the countdown is bound to be accepted, since it has been compiled by the czars in the film industry as well as media and most importantly the Indian audience."

The 50 Most Desirable Woman list was a first in a series of such Red Hot Countdowns on Zoom; and will be an annual feature.

The secret of Ash transformation

To ensure Aishwarya transformation for Dhoom 2, noted yoga therapist, personal trainer and pilates instructor Deepika Mehta was brought in to do the needful.

Hrithik Roshan, whom stars opposite Aishwarya too has shed those excesses courtesy Mehta, who she met through stylist Anaita Shroff (she is Aishwarya stylist in Dhoom 2). Evidence of the hardwork paid off when a svelte Ash was recently spotted at Zayed Khan's wedding where she looked amazing.

Talking about this transformation, Mehta says, 'I am just a catalyst, it's Ash who showed dedication and interest in grooming herself the way Yashraj Films wanted her to.'

Bound by a Yashraj Films contract, Mehta refuses to divulge any details about Ash training, like the weight of the actress before she joined the fitness regime. But Mehta admits that Aishwarya needed to shed weight, to look sexy on screen with Hrithik.

'I prescribe a diet depending on the metabolism of the person. You'll have to understand that I am not a gym instructor; I don't make my clients lift weights. Ash is an amazing dancer and believes in spiritual power. She is easy to work with, once she has faith in you. I made her do a little jazz movement along with some dance steps.' she says.

Mehta who prefers privacy, used to book the gym and the adjacent area at Taj Land's End to train Aishwarya. 'We required a peaceful area for the yoga session. They have a private gym, which ensures one is not disturbed,' she says. All this with soft lounge music being played in the background. 'Ash loves music, and I used to play Indian fusion with spiritual chanting for her,' she informs.

Considering Aishwarya hectic schedule, how did she find time for her fitness regime with Mehta? 'It was difficult, but not impossible. I travelled with her to London for Provoked and then went to Jaipur for Umrao Jaan,' she says.

What about her presence during the Dhoom 2 shoot? 'I don't think they would require me during the shooting, but if they ask me, then I shall be available,' she assures.

Mehta has trained under internationally acclaimed Guru Pattabhi Jois from Mysore and has been in this field for the last ten years. 'Celebrities like Madonna have been my guruji's disciple. I have mastered the Ashtanga yoga, which helps in reducing weight,' she reveals.

Mehta's other clients include Yana Gupta, Avanti and Yash Birla, and the models of Kingfisher calendar too. Mehta is undoubtedly the highest paid personal trainer. 'I won't be able to quote the exact amount, because it varies according to client requirements,' she adds.

You will have plenty of Aishwarya Rai in 2006

Do not worry if 2005 was an uneventful year for the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai on screen. You will have plenty of Ash to feast your eyes upon in 2006

First, Ash is all set to make a big splash on the international arena in 2006 with three Hollywood movies featuring her to be released during the year.

With this, she will also emerge as the only Indian actress to achieve the distinction.

The Hollywood films The Last Legion , Provoked , and Mistress of Spices , are being lined up for release this year and her spirited performance in the films will make her an international star of repute, Ash Business Manager Hari Singh said in Mumbai.

After making her debut in Hollywood with Gurinder Chadha 's Bride and Prejudice , Ash was determined to make a mark on the international circuit, he said.

Ash journey from Miss World in 1994 to a super model and eventually Bollywood's 'numero uno' heroine to a brand ambassador and an international star has been really exciting, Singh said.

Back home, Ash has several big-budget films like J P Dutta 's magnum opus Umrao Jaan opposite Abhishek Bachchan in which she portrays the title role, Aditya Chopra 's Dhoom 2 opposite Hrithik Roshan , Ashutosh Gowarikar 's Jodha Akbar , again co-starring Hrithik, will catapult her to greater heights this year, Singh claimed.

Several leading filmmakers, including Ketan Mehta , Mani Ratnam and Ratan Jain , are planning big films with Ash as a central character, he said.

Ash flew down to Mumbai from Jaipur on the eve of the New Year to be with her parents, brother and sister-in-law. She took a day off from the month-long schedule of 'Umrao Jaan'.

Ash celebrated the New Year with her family members at her residence in suburban Bandra.

"Aishwarya is a very religious person attached to Indian customs and tradition," Singh said. After performing pooja at home on the New Dear's day, she went to Siddhivinayak Temple to pay obeisance to Lord Ganesh and participated in the first aarti at 0530 hrs.

Ash is leaving for Brazil in the last week of this month for the shooting of 'Dhoom 2'.

Aishwarya Rai refuses to endorse Ganga in America

She has a long list of endorsements to her credit. However, this time Aishwarya Rai refused a brand endorsement. The product in question is Ganga mineral water, which she was asked to endorse in America. She declined the offer because she felt that it would be wrong to portray that the Ganga has come to America. She would have hurt the feelings of many Indians.

Her representatives believe that she has a certain image and the products she is associated with are chosen carefully. It is not a matter of money, but responsibility towards her fans.

In spite of enjoying international success, here is one actress who hasn't forgotten her roots.

Aishwarya Rai boasts one more feather in her cap!

Aishwarya Rai is the new cover girl of America, a relatively new magazine for the hi-end urban readers of the US of A. She has proved once again that she is the global face of Indian womanhood.

Aishwarya Rai has won recognition as the global face of Bollywood. Now she is fast becoming the global face of Indian women. After making headlines for appearing on the cover of Time magazine, she has now scored one more victory. Hers is the glamorous face that appears on the cover of the fall-winter 2005 issue of the brand new US magazine called America. The journal is reputed to be a sample of a new class of magazines catering to hi-end urban readers and has had top US celebrities on its cover until now. Ash, finishing her shooting assignment in Slovakia for The Last Legion, is thrilled with the accolades this cover is bringing her way. In the magazine's interview, she says that her personal life can never come under any scanner. She describes her coming films in Hollywood and Bollywood, forming a bridge between two of the world's biggest film industries. 'I am doing everything that I enjoy,' she says in the interview, 'I take every assignment as it comes and make an honest effort to make it a fulfilling experience.'

Aishwarya Rai the Sexiest Woman?

She is a Greek Goddess with the soul of an Indian said a US commentator after the release of he film Bride and Prejudice. Often described as the world's most beautiful women, she has more than 18,000 websites dedicated to her by her fans.

In a CBS interview, she was asked what the biggest compliment she ever got is. 'When people say I am real'.

But that's not all, according to the recent buzz our gorgeous actress has made it to top ten sexiest celebrity bodies put together by TV channel E!. In addition, we hear that our very own Ash has beaten out international hotties like Halle Berry, Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears and Madonna to grab the spot.

The channel, however, has not yet disclosed the exact countdown as the programme starts only on Sunday and even Simone Sheffield, Rai international manager, was not very forthcoming on the exact ranking of Aishwarya.

But Sheffield did confirm that Ash was definitely among the top contenders. 'It is a fun series, and Aishwarya is in the top ten,' she said.

The series will have exclusive interviews with the stars and a talk with the experts - which include Fantastic Four's Chris Evans, Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, Sean Mcguire, Raoul Bova and Raquel Welch.

The countdown will unfold in ascending order with the least sexy of the 101 candidates and culminate in a grand finale, which will reveal the sexiest woman alive.

Aishwarya Rai finds work a tough deal in Hollywood

Aishwarya Rai finds work a pretty tough deal in Hollywood. None of them has seen her Hindi movies, so they regard her as a newcomer who has to prove herself. Although she is not the lead in 'The Last Legion' - a Hollywood epic about Roman warrior. She is plays Mira, a mysterious black-clad warrior who also helps protect Ceasar in the film. She decided to do the part for greater visibility and to gain a foothold in Hollywood.