Global superstar Priyanka Chopra had once famously said that God had taken the weekend off to make Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and we’re sure everyone agrees. Frequently termed “the most beautiful woman in the world” in media, Rai has been worshipped throughout her career for her green eyes, incandescent skin and her characteristic nazakat. However, the 44-year-old actress is so much more than her looks.
Rai was bombarded with film offers and promotions after her win in the Miss World 1994 pageant. She made her debut in Mani Ratnam’s Iruvar but her career truly soared after she starred in the enormously successful 1999 film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. She followed it up with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas. Not many actresses are keen to share the same platform with Madhuri Dixit-Nene, especially if they have to dance alongside her. Dixit-Nene’s skills on the dance floor are a thing of Bollywood legend but Rai more than held her own in the now-iconic Dola Re Dola segment.
Throughout the course of her long career, Rai has delivered powerhouse performances and has received countless awards and accolades. She is a Padma Shri awardee and has also been honoured with the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2012. In 2003, she achieved another milestone, becoming the first Indian actress to be a jury member at the Cannes Film Festival.
Her father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan was the first Bollywood star to be inducted in Madame Tussaud’s hall of fame and Rai quickly followed suit in 2004, becoming the second B-town actor to receive the honour.
In 2011, she took a firm and very public stand when she refused to be the face of a skin-lightening cream. According to a report in The Times of India, her reason behind turning down the lucrative offer was the fact that she couldn’t see herself endorsing a product that promotes ‘fairness’ as something to aspire to, especially in a country like India where the colonised mind is still very much discriminatory towards brown skin.
The actress also found herself in august company with the likes of Beyonce and Diana Ross when Mattel launched Bollywood Barbie which was modelled after her. Rai is one of the most recognised faces in the world, an unofficial ambassador for India wherever she goes – and that includes when she appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s ‘Women across the globe’ segment, becoming the first Bollywood personality to appear on the hugely successful and era-defining show.
In the wake of the #MeTooIndia movement, many have credited Rai for sowing the seeds way back when she wrote an open letter regarding the alleged abuses and harassment she faced during and after her relationship with Salman Khan.
Hitherto unheard of, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan had done what nobody could have imagined – taken on Khan and that too, so publicly. In taking such a step, the actress proved that she was more than just a pretty face and that her delicate frame was host to an iron will. Years later, nothing has changed. She is still as stunning as she was then and her fame remains untouched. Shakespeare wrote these words for Cleopatra but he may as well have described Rai – age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety.
(Header credits: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan on Instagram)