National Award-winning director Omung Kumar admits that one of his biggest challenge was to make Aishwarya `not’ look like Aishwarya in his upcoming biopic, ‘Sarbjit.’ With this in mind, he decided to start the film with the final look and recalls that when the 42-year-old actress looked into the mirror to see a woman with grey hair, wrinkles and glasses staring back, even she exclaimed, “OMG, is that me!”

“Maybe one day I will make a film that will showcase the beautiful woman Ash is, but Sarbjit was a film that went beyond looks and glamour to focus on grit. My biggest triumph was when fans came to the Wagah Border or the India Gate for Ash’s autograph and failing to recognise her, would start looking around for her,” he laughs.

The film traces Sarabjit Singh’s 23-year stay in a Pakistani jail. The farmer from Punjab had strayed across the border and been convicted of terrorism and spying by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. His sudden disappearance changes the lives of his wife, daughters and in particular, his sister, Dalbir Kaur, who from 1991 till his death in 2013, campaigned relentlessly for his release.

“In the film you also see Ash as a young, carefree girl, happily married and pregnant, before some personal tragedies slowly bleach out the colours from her face, clothes and the backdrop. The eight months when she has no idea what happened to her brother, add lines of worry which get deeply entrenched when she learns his whereabouts.Struggling to keep the family together, Dalbir starts to grey, and when brother and sister finally meet in prison, they comment on how their baal has turned safed,” points out the director.

 Omung informs that since his heroine’s age fluctuates from one scene to the next, he couldn’t use latex and had to rely completely on make-up to darken the eyes and make the skin coarser. “I would apply make-up on myself to show Ash how it would look on her,” he says, adding that as she put on weight with the years and fashions changed, her clothes moved from tight-fit to padded, vivid to de-saturated colours and muted prints.
“I also gave her a mole on the left cheek and played with its size. It was my signature dot.” And how did Dalbir react to her screen alter ego? Omung admits that she was happy the `khubsoorat’ Aishwarya was playing her, but they weren’t similar, physically. “Dalbir is short and small, Ash is taller.
But unless you are making a film on an iconic figure like Gandhi or Nehru, you can take such creative liberties. Even Priyanka (Chopra) didn’t look anything like the real Mary Kom. For me it was important to replicate the mannerisms and attitude, not the look, and transform the actress completely. That’s what makes Sarbjit my film,” he asserts.