Hers is not less than a fairy tale; hers is not less than a Bollywood tale.
Being born in an ethnic family in Mangalore, Aishwarya Rai never really thought of becoming a beauty queen, leave alone an actress. She intended to pursue Medicine, but later enrolled into architecture and then into modelling. In 1991, Aishwarya won a supermodel contest and was eventually featured in the American edition of Vogue. There was no looking back for this ‘international beauty’ as she is fondly called and she took up modelling quite seriously and bagged laurels for herself and for India.
Even before she won the Miss World pageant, Aishwarya had won many a heart back home with the Pepsi ad in 1993 with Aamir Khan. But things changed overnight for this former beauty queen after winning the Miss World title in 1994.
The corridors of B Town opened for Aishwarya as soon as she won the Miss World title. Aishwarya made her acting debut in 1997 with Mani Ratnam’s Tamil film ‘Iruvar’, which was a critical success. That same year, she made her Bollywood debut in ‘Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya’ opposite Bobby Deol, which was a commercial failure. Aishwarya failed to make an impact and reviewers were critical of her acting ability.
In Pics: Happy Birthday Aishwarya Rai Bachchan: World’s most beautiful woman turns 41
But this girl had the zeal and determination to make it big. She first tasted success in Bollywood with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s romantic drama ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ in 1999 with her then beau Salman Khan. The film, which also starred Ajay Devgn, marked a significant turning point in her career.
Aishwarya’s performance was praised over her co-actors’ and till date is largely considered her big dramatic breakthrough. ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ emerged as a major commercial success and won Aishwarya Rai a Filmfare Award for Best Actress.
Aishwarya Rai received a second Best Actress nomination that year at the Filmfare Awards for Subhash Ghai’s ‘Taal’. Aishwarya Rai next starred in films including Mansoor Khan’s ‘Josh’ where she played the role of Shah Rukh Khan’s twin sister. She was then seen in Satish Kaushik’s ‘Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai’. Her role as a rape victim earned a third Best Actress nomination at Filmfare.
Aishwarya Rai’s second major breakthrough was again with director Sanjay leela Bhansali in ‘Devdas’, where she was cast alongside Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit. Aishwarya’s portrayal of Paro won her accolades like never before.The International media went gaga over Aishwarya Rai’s performance in Devdas: “Aishwarya Rai proves she has the acting talent to back up her flawless looks”.
In late 2004, Aishwarya Rai garnered international recognition for her role opposite Martin Henderson in Gurinder Chadha’s British film ‘Bride and Prejudice’.
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Next Aishwarya collaborated with director Rituparno Ghosh for the second time in ‘Raincoat’, after ‘Choker Bali’, with Ajay Devgn, ‘Raincoat’ met with wide critical acclaim and among other wins.
The same year,’Dhoom: 2′ became Aishwarya Rai’s first major commercial success after ‘Devdas’.
In 2007, Aishwarya Rai featured as the wife of her then fiance Abhishek Bachchan in Mani Ratnam’s ‘Guru’. And soon enough in April that year. Aishwarya Rai tied the knot with the Junior B.
Aishwarya Rai’s third milestone was in 2008 with Ashutosh Gowariker’s period romance ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ with Hrithik Roshan. Aishwarya Rai received heaps of praises for her portrayal of the Rajput princess.
The same year she paired up with her husband, Abhishek Bachchan, and father-in-law, Amitabh Bachchan for Ram Gopal Varma’s political drama ‘Sarkar Raj’, a sequel to the 2005 box-office hit ‘Sarkar’. The film was a critical and commercial success, with praise directed to the performances of the three leads.
In 2010 Aishwarya Rai teamed up with Sanjay Leela Bhansali for the third time for Hrithik Roshan starrer ‘Guzaarish’. Despite failing at Box Office, ‘Guzaarish’ met with positive critical comments.
Even as Aishwarya continues to work after marriage, she keeps alluring the audiences and connoiseurs of the cinema about the way she keeps her private space intact and distinct from the professional one.
Her relationship with superstar Salman Khan was often reported in the media until the couple separated in 2001. Aishwarya cited “abuse (verbal, physical and emotional), infidelity and indignity” by Salman as the reason for ending the relationship.
She was then linked with her ‘Kyun! Ho Gaya Naa’ co-star Vivek Oberoi. All this while, Aishwarya kept a much dignified silence over all the issues concerning her, calling for all the speculations to die a natural death.
On November 16, 2011, Aishwarya Rai gave birth to a baby girl – Aaradhya Bachchan, post which she came under tremendous scrutiny for the post pregnancy weight gain.
Aishwarya Rai, who is truly a global icon, finally accepted the second-highest Order Of France, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, in 2012. The award was presented to her on her birthday in November 2011 and as per her wish she was accompanied by her family including little Aaradhya.
In October 2004 a wax figure of Aishwarya 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 honour.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has always been the trendsetter when it comes to Bollywood. The beauty queen got pregnant soonafter signing Madhur Bhandarkar’s ‘Heroine’ and had to opt out of the project unplanned. And the diva made the move quite graciously, without hurting anybody’s sentiments.
A lot has been always written about her personal life including her marriage with Abhishek Bachchan, who is considered to be less popular than her. But denigrating all the charges against herself, Aishwarya has proved to be a wonderful wife and an even more wonderful daughter in law. She is often seen playing the Bachchan Bahu to the tee, be it coming to be seen with mother-in-law Jaya Bachchan, father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan and sister-in-law Shweta Nanda at events or effortlessly socializing with the who’s-who of B Town.
Apart from being associated with many a social and charitable causes, Aishwarya is a true samaritan. Karan Johar was once quoted saying, that when he thought of making his directorial debut with ‘Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hai’, he approached atleast nine actresses for the role which was eventually played by Rani Mukerji. Every actress would promise to call back, but none actually did. Only Aish had the courtesy to call back and deny the role because of date issues.
According to a report in Hindustan Times, Brad Pitt and Ash were to work together in ‘Troy’. The report further quoted Brad Pitt saying, “Given a chance, I would like to work with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan because she’s a versatile actor. She is one of the most popular actresses of Bollywood, who has achieved huge acclaim in the west for her style, beauty and acting skills. I think we missed an opportunity to be cast together for the movie ‘Troy’.”
One incident that goes to speak of the strength of character of the lady is quoted from koimoi.com. According to a report, Richard Steinmetz, the host of the pageant that year, had asked Aishwarya out after she won the title. However Aishwarya politely declined him.
Talk of dedication and professionalism, during the filming of ‘Dola Re Dola’ from Bhansali’s ‘Devdas’ with Aishwarya and Madhuri, according to IMDB, Aish’s ears were bleeding because of the heavy earrings that she was wearing. However the actress continued to complete her scene.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is known to have been associated with several causes from her eye-donation campaigns for more than a decade now to promoting stem cell banking now. The actress has also been long associated with UN-AIDS and was also chosen as the International Goodwill Ambassador in 2009.
Aishwarya is the first Bollywood actress to have acquired such name and fame in Hollywood. Aishwarya was the first Bollywood personality to appear on the The Oprah Winfrey Show and is the most talked about Indian diva on the Cannes Red Carpet every year.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan now awaits her official comeback to the silver screen with Sanjay Gupta’s ‘Jazbaa’. The action thriller is a story about a lawyer played by Aishwarya, her client played by John Abraham, a suspended cop Irrfan Khan and his mother. Shabana Azmi has been roped in to play Irrfan’s mother, a professor.
We wish this epitome of Indian beauty a very happy birthday and all the luck for her life and upcoming ventures in Bollywood as well as Hollywood.