The battle has begun. This time, it’s between Sushmita Sen and Aishwarya Rai. Both are ready to play Rani Lakshmibai. While Ash has already announced her film with Ketan Mehta last year, Sushmita Sen decided to produce a film on the same subject early this year. Speaking for the first time about her project, she says, “Why should I shelve my film because Ash is playing Lakshmibai too, in Ketan Mehta’s film? She will do it in her own way and I wish her all the best.”
Sushmita is planning to produce the film under her banner, Tantra. “Yes, I am doing this film based on the life of Rani Lakshmibai, but I don’t want to start the project in a hurry. It’s my dream project and I want to be sure about it,” she says. The buzz goes that Sushmita wants her boyfriend ad-filmmaker Manav Menon to direct the film. “It’s too early to talk about the director. I am keeping my options open, although I am certain that either my director or the director of photography will be from Hollywood,” she says.
The only film on Rani Lakshmibai was made in 1952, by Shorab Modi, where Mehtab played the role of the brave queen. Later Zee TV started a project titled Rani Lakshmibai with Hema Malini, but it was shelved. In 1999, Hema Malini produced a TV Jhansi Ki Rani, which was directed by Ravi Chopra. Marathi actress Varsha Usgaonkar played the lead in the serial. “Re-creating the era will be difficult, but not impossible. I also intend to train in horse riding and sword fighting,” she says. However, Sushmita’s Lakshmibai will be filmed from a different perspective. “My film will be based purely from the perspective of Lakshmibai as a mother,” says Sushmita. “She fought her battle as much as a mother as a queen. She didn’t want the British to kill her adopted son, Damodar Rao, and she succeeded in her mission.”
Considering the fact that Rani Lakshmibai died when she was just 22 years old, how come these two, much older actresses are getting ready to play the role? “We are actors by profession and we are well within our rights to take cinematic liberties, at least for another ten years,” she smiles. Incidentally, Sushmita and Rani Lakshmibai share the same birthday, that is November 19. “There is nothing called coincidence in my vocabulary,” says Sushmita. “Everything happens for a cause.”
In an earlier interview Aishwarya Rai had said, “I would love to play the role of Rani Lakshmibai because I see her as a a woman of strength, courage and affection.”