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In For The Long Haul

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EVEN THOUGH SHE IS THE “BAHU” OF THE FIRST FAMILY OF BOLLYWOOD, THE BACHCHAN KHANDAAN, and is entitled to and enjoys all the privileges and fame, necessarily attached to her position, I would much rather talk about her persona and achievements, irrespective of her marital surname, as the former precede the latter convincingly and quite decidedly.

Aishwarya Rai- Miss World (1994), ‘Beauty Queen’, ‘Most Attractive Woman’, ‘Most Desirable Woman’, ‘Most beautiful Woman in the world’, ‘One of Asia’s Sexiest Women’, are just a few of the titles bestowed upon her; As her most distinctive physical features, Rai’s green-blue eyes, luscious lips, sexy curves and ultra-feminine mannerisms have been cited by the media as her trademark.

Her beauty is indisputable and hailed by local and international media alike and it is these picture perfect looks that are in most part responsible for her stature and standing today.

NOT TRYING TO SOUND SUPERFICIAL, BUT THEN WE ARE TALKING ABOUT SHOW BIZ AND THAT TOO WITH REGARDS TO THE INDIAN FILM INDUSTRY where women actors, whether good or bad, need to look gorgeous- need to add the glamour quotient on-screen and to be honest, why not? It is always a pleasure to watch something or someone beautiful and viewers enjoy their heroines and stars to fit that image and idea of beauty.

AISHWARYA STARTED HER MOVIE CAREER IN BOLLYWOOD IN 1997, BUT TASTED PROPER COMMERCIAL SUCCESS only in 1999 when she starred in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam which became a significant turning point in her career. She went onto win her first Best Actress Award at the Filmfare Awards.

This was one of the few pictures spanning her long career where her acting talent was much appreciated in addition to of course how stunning she looked in the beautiful and colorful Gujrati backdrop.

Her next milestone picture was also incidentally a Bhansali film, opposite Shah Rukh Khanthe magnum opus love saga, Devdas, where Aishwarya looked and danced like a vision and captured the audience’ adulation and proved she has the acting talent to back her flawless looks. She also fetched her second and last to date, Filmfare award for this role.

However, despite these successes, critics have not been too impressed with Aishwarya’s acting prowess and ability to emote on-screen. Over a span for 14 + years (1997-2010, 2015-present ) she has acted in roughly 40 films, with big banners, top heroes, paired as leading lady with the Khans, the Kapoors and worked with some of the biggest names in the industry but most of them have her in roles that failed to leave a mark on the viewers’ mind. Even though in most of her films her candescent beauty and artistry does indeed keep the audience watching, the latter are not necessarily emotionally engaged. Most of her films garnered her unfavorable reviews in the acting department with her being accused of all gloss but no depth.

THIS WAS FOLLOWED BY MORE PERFORMANCEBACKED ROLES ESSAYED BY AISHWARYA AS A DEPRESSED WOMAN in the relationship drama Raincoat (2004) and as Kiranjit Ahluwalia in the British drama film Provoked (2006), playing a domestically-abused wife, who ends up murdering her own husband. By playing such characters she seemed to have shed her inhibitions about looking unglamorous and ‘perfect’ all the time, while efforts to ‘look the part’ and make an earnest effort to emote came across on the screen. Rai garnered international recognition for her starring role opposite Martin Henderson in Gurinder Chadha’s British film Bride and Prejudice, a Bollywood-style adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice. International film critics were appreciative of Rai’s ” radiant beauty” but questioned her acting ability and labelled it as “inert”.

IN 2003, SHE WAS THE FIRST INDIAN ACTRESS TO BE A JURY MEMBER AT THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL and ever since has a maintained her association with the prestigious film festival, frequenting the event every year.

Aishwarya Rai is one of the most popular and high-profile celebrities of India. She has been prolific with her work, visible in media and an icon of beauty and style, both on the domestic and international arena. Being in the Spotlight even when not starring in films, Aishwarya has made a mark in the entertainment business through popular brand endorsements, public appearances at high-profile events, which makes her under the radar of constant media speculation.

She is one of the top brand ambassadors in the country and is one of the top paid Bollywood actresses in this respect.

LOVE OR HATE HER, BUT YOU CANNOT IGNORE HER. EVERYTHING SHE DOES GETS NOTED AND REPORTED IN THE MEDIA. Her dress sense is especially under scrutiny, more so at international occasions. She is judged, appraised and rated by everyone and anyone. She even got a lot of flak from the media for her post-pregnancy weight gain and accompanying dress sense at outings, especially the recent Cannes festival.

It cant be an easy to face such intense critique and evaluation on a daily basis but then Aishwarya has clearly risen above this invasive side to her career and refuses to be manipulated by the media or react to it. She is comfortable in her skin, secure enough in her space whereby others’ opinion cannot take away from her persona or the celebrity that she is.

Humanitarian and Social work: Combining beauty with a mission and putting her position in society to good use Aishwarya supports various social causes and is an ambassador for many charities across the country. Rai is the brand ambassador for The Eye Bank Association of India’s nationwide campaign to promote eye donation in India. In 2005 she became a brand ambassador for Pulse Polio, a campaign to eradicate polio in India. In the same year, Rai was appointed spokesperson for the International Year of Microcredit, raising awareness of the main goals and priorities of the United Nations’ poverty alleviation efforts.

SHE WAS APPOINTED AS THE NEW INTERNATIONAL GOODWILL AMBASSADOR FOR UNAIDS, to raise global awareness on protecting children from HIV infection and increasing access to antiretroviral treatment.

It will not be an exaggeration to say that her list of achievements reads effort, persistence and accomplishment. Her ambassadorial endeavors make her a representative for India on the international platform and that is a big responsibility.

LOVE LIFE AND MARRIAGE: AFTER BEING UNSUCCESSFUL IN LOVE AND HER FAILED RELATIONSHIP, and rather acrimonious break-up with Salman Khan, she was briefly linked with Vivek Oberoi.

Then in 2007, she married Abhishek Bachchan and officially added more weight to her popular existence. She became the second half of a “power couple” but it was obvious to even the most undiscerning on-looker that the power here is of the alliance of Aishwarya Rai and the Bachchan surname and has nothing to do with Abhishek as an individual.

The couple have a daughter Aaradhya. Despite being under the media’s constant piercing gaze she keeps her personal life well-guarded and exhibits class and dignified demeanor.


IN OCTOBER 2004 A WAX FIGURE OF RAI WAS PUT ON DISPLAY IN LONDON’S MADAME TUSSAUD’S WAX MUSEUM. She was the sixth Indian and the second Bollywood personality—after her father-in-law, Amitabh Bachchan—to get this honor.

Appearances on popular cult international shows such as Late Show with David Letterman, The Oscars and the Oprah Winfrey Show only add to her persona and the global personality that is Aishwarya.

She was the first Bollywood personality to appear on Oprah’s “Women Across the Globe” segment as well as the first Indian celebrity who appeared in The Oprah Winfrey Show twice, second time with hubby Abhishek.

An international icon in every sense of the word, Ashwariya epitomizes beauty, grace and the confidence to articulate her thoughts on a global platform. Her world is truly beyond the film world, and even though the latter is the reason that opened up these opportunities for her, she has utilized those chances to the hilt and expanded her vision and space to accommodate far more than just a Bollywood heroine.

She arrived on the scene a long time ago and will continue to be here, in one avatar or another, all the while looking beautiful.

“I don’t believe in proving a point to anybody. Nobody is that important.”

“It’s nice to be important. But it’s more important to be nice.”

“My family is my strength and my weakness.”

“The more you are blessed with experience, the fuller and the more enriched you are in your craft.”

“Beauty is transient and changes with time.”

“I’m not the type who’ll yell about my achievements from the rooftops.”


This piece has been written by Mahvish Gul, a self-confessed aficionado of all things film.

She is a resident of Dubai and a Professor of Economics at the American University of Dubai [AUD]