Bollywood can be well described as “survival of the fittest.” It’s a tough industry to maintain your grasp in and you have to be very lucky to get to the top, and then maintain your position. It also helps if you have a mix of talent, looks, and the very important “it” factor. One person who fits the bill in all these categories is none other than Aishwarya Rai. She is, without a doubt, the most talked about and most known Bollywood actor globally. In honor of the major success she has achieved in her career and the release of her new film Jodhaa Akbar, we would like to do a retrospective of the rise of the career of lady Ash.
Aishwarya Rai was born on November 1, 1973 in Mangalore, India, but moved to Mumbai shortly afterwards. Being brought up in the big city, her dreams were also big. Although she wanted to become an architect during her school days, her dreams quickly shifted into modeling. That is exactly the path she ended up choosing as she started doing many ads. All these ads were followed up with a run for the Miss India title, in which she was the runner up. As a result, she competed for the Miss World crown in 1994 at the age of 21. She ended up winning the competition, which opened many doors for her at such a young age. She decided to shift from modeling to acting hoping her newfound fame would get her places in the movie industry. People had never witnessed somebody with the beauty she possessed. That is why she started getting the title “the most beautiful woman in the world.” That was the reason she was able to cash in on acting as a backbone of her career. No one, at that time, thought that she would become one of the biggest names in Indian cinema whose talents would match her phenomenal looks.
Aishwarya started her acting career in 1997 in the South Indian film, Iruvar. The movie received great critical acclaim and Aishwarya was appreciated for her performance. Her first Bollywood film was Aur Pyar Ho Gaya, which did not do well. Her Bollywood career started off in a slow note, so she appeared in another South Indian movie. Jeans ended up being yet another success for Aishwarya in South Indian films, but she knew that Bollywood was calling for her presence. Her whole career would change with the film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. She gave a wonderful performance that resulted in her winning awards for the film in all major award function. The film was also a big hit and won many awards. 1999 had to definitely be the year of Aishwarya Rai because other than HDDCS, she also starred in Taal that year. She gave a very solemn and understated performance in this film, which went on to become a big hit. She was nominated for best actress for the film, but went on to lose to herself for HDDCS.
In the year 2000, she starred in yet another South Indian film called Kandukondain Kandukondian. Once again, she was appreciated for her efforts as she always received applause for her South Indian films. As for her Bollywood films in the same year, she starred in Josh, Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai, Dhai Akshar Prem Ke, and a special appearance in Mohabbatein. HDAPH ended up doing well and Ash received a best actress nomination for her performance. She also bagged a best supporting actress nomination for her special appearance in Mohabbatein. 2001 was a relatively quiet year for her as she only starred in Albela, which bombed badly. 2002, on the other hand, was a big year for her as she starred in the huge film, Devdas. The film won a record 10 Filmfare Awards, including a best actress award for Aishwarya. This is the film that officially put Aishwarya on the map and a force to be reckoned with. She also starred in the forgettable Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin and the unforgettable ‘Ishq Kamina’ item number in the film Shakti, which set body temperatures rising.
The highlight for her in 2003 had to be her Bengali film, Chokher Bali. It was something totally different from anything she had done in the past and she received much praise for her performance in the film. The film also received critical acclaim. Along with this film, she also starred in Kuch Naa Kaho and Dil Ke Rishta that year. Unfortunately, both these films flopped.
2004 was a memorable year for her in that she starred in her first English language film, Bride and Prejudice. It got the West to notice her and also helped her form a niche in Hollywood. The film did well overseas, which was an indication that Hollywood was definitely ready for the Bollywood beauty. That year, she also starred in the flop Kyun Ho Gaya Na, the critically and commercially successful Khakee, and the wonderful Raincoat, in which she perhaps gave the best performance of her career. She received a best actress nomination for the film. The one film she did in 2005, Shabd, was a damp squib, but that did not mean the attention was away from her. Her item number in Bunty Aur Babli, Kajre Re, alongside future husband and father-in-law, Abhishek and Amitabh Bachchan, was bigger than anything else she had done in her career. The song and video became a rage across the nation. Nobody will ever forget that Ash was the catalyst to the mother of all item numbers.
She started off 2006 with yet another English language film, The Mistress of Spices. This one, though, did not match the success of B&P and was a big failure. But it did not deter her from continuing to attempt more English language films in the future. She then starred in the remake of Umrao Jaan, which was supposed to be her career defining role. Although she was appreciated for her efforts, the movie was not taken well at all and flopped badly. But she ended the year with a bang that made everyone forget about the failures she endured earlier in the year. Her role in Dhoom 2 was the boldest of her career. Everyone gave her much credit for her complete makeover. The movie became the biggest hit of the year and Aishwarya was nominated for best actress for her performance.
2007 may be the most favorite year of her life, not for anything professionally, but rather personally. This is the year when she finally tied the knot to Abhishek Bachchan. Ever since then, I don’t recall ever seeing her without a smile on her face. She has been on top of the world since then. But her professional career wasn’t looking too shabby either. She starred alongside her husband in the film Guru, which received much praise and was also a big box office hit. Aishwarya was highly appreciated for her performance and has been nominated for best actress at this year’s awards. After this, she starred in two English language films, starting with Provoked. The movie did not do well, but Aishwarya’s performance was looked at as highly commendable. Then she starred in the extremely forgettable The Last Legion, in which she might have been the lone bright spot. All in all, 2007 was a pretty exciting year for Lady Rai.
Besides her movies, she has other highlights to her credit as well. In 2003, she became a part of the Cannes jury and has attended every festival since then. She is also an ambassador for the brand, L’Oreal, for which she also makes appearances at Cannes. A huge highlight for her career was gracing the cover of Time magazine and being named one of the most influential people in the world. Then in 2004, she became the first Indian female to receive a wax statue at the famed Madame Tussaud’s wax museum in London and recently the statue was shifted to the New York museum for a brief period of time. As she became better known in the West in 2005, she made appearances in shows such as the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” and “60 Minutes.” More and more people are getting to know her outside of India now and it has become very beneficial to her career.
Although Aishwarya has faced many controversies and problems in her career, she has always maintained her dignity and has held her head high. She has had her ups and downs, but still has managed to stay at the top for all these years. Like I said at the outset, Bollywood is the survival of the fittest, and Ash has proven that she has what it takes to maintain a grasp in this industry. Aishwarya is not just beauty, but also brains. If she wasn’t, then there is no way she would have been able to market her the way she has and become such a global icon. The girl is very intelligent and talented and it has helped her achieve the success she has received throughout her career.
2008 looks to be yet another landmark year for Aishwarya. She has finished shooting for her biggest Hollywood film to date, Pink Panther 2. She has signed on to Sriram Raghavan’s (Ek Hasina Thi, Johnny Gaddaar) next which she will start shooting shortly. Also just recently, she has signed onto star opposite South Indian megastar Rajnikanth in the film Robot. It is her first South Indian film in 8 years. She will be starring alongside her husband and father-in-law, the Bachchan Boys, for the first time in Sarkar Raj, which is expected to release in May. Last, but certainly not least, this Friday she will star in Jodhaa Akbar, which is slated to be the biggest film of her career. All this is just an indication that Aishwarya is not ready to give up her spot at the top of the mountain just yet. As a matter of fact, it seems as if she is trying to get sole possession of the apex. We, here at Bollyspice, would like to wish Aishwarya the best in her career and hope she get all the success she truly deserves in everything she does!