If many a girl who grew up in the early 90s wanted to become Madhuri Dixit, everyone not much later wanted to look like Aishwarya Rai. While the girls idolised her (Miss World-winning beauty), the guys, even if in their half-pants, knew the sort of girl they’d want in their lives. 

As a young boy who had barely hit puberty, I remember watching even a Tamil-language film like Jeans with friends (of course we didn’t understand Tamil and the dub was shit TBH) just to grab a sight of her. 

 

Be it cosmetic brand advertisements or soda commercials, the blue-eyed Aishwarya Rai was everywhere while growing up in the 90s (and early 2000s). The Sanjay Leela Bhansali 1999 film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam only added to the hysteria by giving screen time to her romance with Salman Khan.

And the teenagers who were already not obsessed with her, were now pasting her posters on their bedroom walls. With an infectious smile and an otherworldly charm, Aishwarya had become a yardstick for grace. 

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She went on to mesmerise us with Taal and Josh at the turn of the millenium and as a result went from the heartthrob to a household name. Later that year, Mohabbatein was a testimony to how she could take the big screens by storm despite as tiny an appearance. Aishwarya, by the end of the year 2000, was a phenomenon.

But as every great story has its share of lows, Aishwarya’s boat hit a rock when in 2002 she had an ugly breakup with Salman. By then, it had allegedly already cost her Shah Rukh Khan’s Chalte Chalte due to her ex’s misbehaviour on the sets of the film. 

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But Devdas came in just at the right time and the attention was back to her charm. The beauty queen had done it again. Like a crafty sorceress, she had cast her spell again on us with her slithering moves in Dola Re Dola and a sultry show in Silsila Ye Chahat Ka.

She won the Filmfare for her role and took her first steps on the road to becoming a truly global superstar. The years that followed might have seen a certain Vivek Oberoi-Salman public spat and various low-key films, but Aishwarya was back to her hottest in Dhoom 2 opposite Hrithik Roshan. (And how can we forget Kajra Re!)

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The same film though led to her falling in love with Abhishek Bachchan who she went on to marry in 2007, breaking many hearts across the nation.

And while all the 90s kids might have grown up to become young men by the end of the previous decade, most of us still ended up at the theatres for her movies — Guru, Jodhaa Akbar and Guzaarish. She decided to step away from the public eye following Guzaarish though.

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But the plain fact that none of us even batted an eyelid to watch the now mother-of-one in the sexy seductress avatar in Karan Johar’s Ae Dil Hai Mushkil last year proves that this generation will forever be obsessed with Aishwarya. 

On her 44th birthday (Nov 1), here’s raising a toast to Aishwarya Rai (Bachchan), the real beauty queen and undoubtedly every 90s kid’s hugest crush!