It was only yesterday that Koimoi published an article on Ash being named one of the World’s Most Beautiful Women as per a popular poll in Hollywood. A fan of the actress wrote to us about why the actress remains undisputed, even after years of not being in immediate limelight. For myriad reasons she is unforgettable and read on to find them out.
“Woh dekho, moholle ki Aishwarya Rai college jaa rahi hain….”
In India it’s almost illegal to use the word ‘beauty’ without taking the name of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. For the rest of the world, Bollywood means Aishwarya Rai and vice-versa. She is probably the only actress among the current lot whose name even your grandparents know. She has an old world charm about her and no wonder when J.P. Dutta decided to make his own version of Umrao Jaan, he couldn’t think of any other actress except Aishwarya who would fit the bill. It’s a given that she is cut out to be a part of an exclusive group of elites and probably doesn’t even realise it. Apart from being the last ‘R.K. Films’ heroine, she has played muse to some of India’s best directors like Mani Ratnam, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Rituparno Ghosh and Ashutosh Gowariker.
There have been many instances when Aishwarya Rai has proved herself to be bigger than the films she has done. One can hardly forget the way she stole the thunder from Rani Mukherjee in Bunty Aur Babli, after all ‘kajra re’ is one of the classiest item songs of all time. She has shared screen space with Hollywood veterans like Colin Firth and Steve Martin, and had the guts to say no to films starring Brad Pitt and Aamir Khan, simply because they won’t yield to her demands. As a brand ambassador she holds the record for being the only actress in India to endorse both Pepsi and Coca Cola, and even today at 40 ‘she is totally worth it’. A true blue pan Indian actress, the kind of media attention she brings to a regional language film, only speaks volume of her mighty star power. Films or no films Aishwarya Rai is a force to be reckoned with.
Let us have a look into her gloriously feathered cap and why she will always be the numero uno female star of India:
In the early 90s, after dominating the world of modelling, Aishwarya set her sights into the world of beauty pageants and conquered that too. After losing out the Miss India crown to Sushmita Sen at the national level, she decided to bring dignity to her 1st runner up status by giving her heart and soul to the Miss World contest. She eventually won the Miss World title on 19th November, 1994 and the rest is modern day history. In addition she was voted the most beautiful Miss World ever, twice, once in 2000 and then again in 2010.
Someone who has been nominated for 10 Filmfare awards, and has won 2 of them, is by no means an ordinary actress. She doesn’t come from a filmy background, neither she is a natural born actress but given a good director and a challenging role, she can deliver what is expected of her. She will always be remembered for her roles in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Devdas and Jodhaa Akbar, because you cannot imagine anybody else essaying those roles. Commercial success has been few and far between for her but Aishwarya has managed to deliver hits in films of every language she has worked in; Tamil (Ravanan, Enthiran), Telugu (Robot, dubbed version), English (Bride and Prejudice), Bengali (Chokher Bali) and Hindi (Dhoom 2, Guru to name a few). She was reportedly paid a staggering amount of 6 crore for her role in Enthiran.
Aishwarya Rai’s name is synonymous with the rise of Indian cinema in the west. She has been slowly gaining popularity in the UK, after her film Devdas was nominated for a BAFTA in the category of ‘Best Film Not in the English Language’. TIME magazine took notice of her rising fame in the West and featured her on its cover in 2003. The following year she was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by the same magazine. Parveen Babi was the first Indian actress to grace the cover of TIME in 1976, but unlike in her case, Aishwarya was not just on the cover, there was an exclusive interview of her inside the magazine.
Aishwarya’s supposed rivalry with Sushmita Sen, her hot shot affair with Salman Khan, her replacement from Chalte Chalte, walking the red carpet at Cannes, sizzling chemistry with Hrithik Roshan, getting married to Abhishek Bachchan and post pregnancy weight issues; are the stuff that modern film legends are made of.
HELLO! Magazine (UK):
This British publication can proudly boast of documenting every move and moods of Aishwarya Rai as she climbed the ladder of International fame. It was in 2003 that the readers of this magazine voted her as the ‘most attractive women of 2003’ leaving behind the likes of Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman and Anjelina Jolie. It is true that the majority of those who voted for her were the Indians living in the UK but what’s important was that the Indians had finally found someone, whom they could vote for. The NRIs found a new obsession and Aishwarya Rai officially became the ‘darling of the Indians’ around the world. Thanks to her, Bollywood took its baby step towards becoming ‘mainstream’. The likes of Sonam Kapoor and Freida Pinto are just following the path which Aishwarya carved out for them.
Cannes Film Festival:
Let us admit that Aishwarya wouldn’t be half as popular as she is today hadn’t it been for the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. In 2002 when she went there for the world premiere of her film ‘Devdas’, little did she knew that the festival would become a huge part of her existence and visibility in the world media. Dressed in a mustard coloured saree, the French people went gaga over her and the leading man of the film Shah Rukh Khan almost went unnoticed. Since then she has been a regular at the festival for the last 12 years and has served as a jury and a brand ambassador for one of the main sponsors of the festival. In 2007 Marie Claire France rolled out a special edition to celebrate the 60 years of beauty and glamour at Cannes, and Aishwarya Rai was proudly featured in the cover of that issue. We Indians can’t imagine Cannes Film Festival without Aishwarya, our knowledge of the festival begins and ends with her.
Her first wax statue at London’s Madame Tussauds was used as a promotional gimmick for her film ‘Bride and Prejudice’. Owing to its popularity one more statue was waxed up at the Blackpool branch of the museum. Last heard a third one was put up at the Musee Grevin Montreal. The world just can’t get enough of her, neither can we.
When ‘Bride and Prejudice’ the perfect combination of the East (Bollywood) and the West (Jane Austen) released, it opened at #1 in the UK box-office and went on to become a runaway hit. ‘Provoked’ created quite a stir when it was showcased at Cannes, with ‘Southall Black Sisters’ members protesting outside the festival venue. ‘Mistress of Spices’ and ‘The Last Legion’ made rounds of various film festivals but failed to pull in audiences at the cinemas. As far as box office numbers go, ‘The Pink Panther 2’ is the most successful film of Aishwarya’s career.
Moreover Cannes, Aishwarya’s films have always travelled across the globe via the plethora of film festivals being organised on a regular basis. Out of the 40 plus films she has done, 18 of them have toured the festival circuit. Her name is used as a catalyst to sell her films to overseas buyers and she is a hot favourite in the European market.
Queen Of Endorsements:
In her capacity as a model and actress she has endorsed almost every brand under the sky. Her association with Longines watches is termed as the longest ever association of any brand with its brand ambassador. To be associated with a brand for 14 plus years is no mean achievement.
Chroniclers of popular culture like Rolling Stone, VH1, Harpers and Queens, Variety, FHM, Playboy, Esquire, Vanity Fair will all agree that they had a crush on Aishwarya Rai at some point or the other. Celebrated talk show hosts like Oprah Winfrey and Late Sir David Frost couldn’t help but got smitten by her charm. American film critic Roger Ebert was a self confessed fan of her. He called her the first as well as the second most beautiful women in the world. Quite a compliment, isn’t it?
From gracing the cover of Cosmopolitan in Bulgaria to beautifying people’s living room in Iran, Aishwarya has done it all. Cut outs of her face and eyes have been used to adorn the walls of numerous beauty parlours across the globe. When someone’s post pregnancy weight is discussed by leading news channels, you know that she is an important figure in today’s world. An ambassador for UNAIDS and Smile Train, Aishwarya Rai believes in doing humanitarian work without demanding any attention.
At a recent press conference when a journalist asked her what else she wants to achieve in life, she beautifully replied –
“……..as long as I am alive, I will continue to dream…………….”
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