Why Aishwarya Matters ?

Aishwarya Rai is a phenomenon which hit hindi movie lovers in full force in the late 90’s when ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ was released. India had seen its fair share of extraordinary beauties in Hindi and other regional language movies. But Aishwarya’s arrival on the scene was something entirely new. She created a mass divide among Hindi movie lovers creating a group of fans who love her immensely, and another group who love to hate her. I am kind of neutral to Ms. Rai Bachchan. I am not a great fan of her acting. However, I believe she has great qualities which make her stand out and make her that ‘lambi race ka ghoda’ who at 38 and after a baby is still in demand in the youth obsessed Bollywood. Here is what I think makes this lady tick, and boy is she a lady! I think she epitomizes grace in our times.

1. The most obvious, her luminous beauty:
Aishwarya Rai is beautiful. There is no doubt about it. What sets her apart from other beautiful ladies in the movies is there is something otherworldly about her beauty, a certain something which comes across as you watch her on screen. Hum Dil de Chuke Sanam, Devdas, Jodhaa Akbar etc saw her transform from a mere human being to stuff dreams are made of. She still is beautiful, baby weight and all. Being a mother only adds to her serene beauty. Oh, go ahead and accuse her of botox, plastic surgery, contact lenses etc. You know its not true. The appeal of her beauty is she is a natural looker.

2. She is immensely poised:
Aish is graceful, poised and very diplomatic. These are the qualities which earned her tags like ‘ice queen’ in her early years. But these are great qualities to be had. She has weathered storms in this movie industry with dignity and has come out of it stronger than ever before. She maintained a very dignified silence over the whole Salman-Vivek drama and only gave statements when she absolutely had to. It is so completely different than actresses taking to twitter or ‘Kofee with Karan’ to bash others. BTW, has she ever criticized her costars the way some of her contemporaries have done? Not that I can recall. She has that old world grace and poise. No wonder the late Maharani Gayatri Devi of Jaipur was delighted at the prospect of Aish playing her in a movie. BTW, does anyone know what happened to that project?

3. She is a smart cookie:
She was a great student in school and did very well in studies before modeling world found her. But I think its her street smart that outsmarts her book smart. Aish is smart, she knows how to play the Bollywood game, even if she is an outsider. No mommy, daddy, chacha, mama to launch her or guide her in the industry, yet look where she is now. She survived the Khan-ban and made them eat their hearts out with her fame and success. So much so that Oprah interviewed her, twice. Some might accuse her for marrying AB Jr for his name and pedigree. Question is why not? I would say, Aish marrying AB Jr was a power merger of sorts, which worked for both sides. BTW, I like Abhisek, he is dorky, awkward but a good actor when the script works in his favor. One also gets the impression that he is a doting husband and father, a great thing to have in movie industry. She has also successfully dodged the ‘curse of beauty’ which plagues many a beautiful ladies, starting from Marilyn Monroe, Jean Harlow and Veronica Lake to Parveen Babi and Meena Kumari on the home turf. Aish has her priorities right and has done things with a cool head which makes her successful both professionally and personally.

4. She keeps the mystery alive:
What is Aishwarya’s favorite color? What did she do last night? Did she twit pictures of herself hanging out at ‘Wasabi’ with friends? The answers to the above questions are: who knows, who knows (again) and No! The answer is no one knows. She is incredibly private and does not let information about her slip through. She does not twit, she does not facebook, she keeps her private life and moments to herself. While it might be frustrating for her fans who would like to know more about her, her policy of keeping a tight lid on things has put her in that rare bracket: ‘a true movie star’, like the old fashioned way. She is like the stars of yore about whom you read in magazines etc but one had no idea how they were in real life. It keeps the mystery alive and the fans intrigued.

5. She is a pioneer in Hindi movie industry:
Sure there were actresses before Aish who kept getting roles after marriage and children, example, Sharmila Tagore, Hema Malini etc. But no one had/has a career path in Bollywood like Aish. She will be 39 in two months and she is in great demand, still. No, not to play hero’s Ma or bhabhi, but she is in demand to play the lead. Her fan base is strong. She has the luxury to take a break and come back when she is ready. In an industry notorious for writing off talented and beautiful actresses when they enter their thirties, this is something new. Her groundbreaking career path has given hope to many other actresses who wish to continue in movies like her even after marriage and kids. I think I remember Kareena mentioning something like this, that she hopes to continue like Ash after her marriage to Saif.

6. Last but not least, she is a great dancer:
Any actress who can hold her own against the Great Madhuri Dixit in a number as energetic as ‘Dola Re Dola Re’ is a-okay in my book. Aish is a great dancer, its a pleasure to watch her dance. Same thing can not be said about the current batch of actresses in Bollywood right now. She was dynamite in the ‘crazy kia re’ number.

It would be interesting to see Ms. Rai Bachchan make a comeback in her forties. What do you guys think? Is she going to be received eagerly by her fans? Or is she going to end up doing insignificant movies like Karishma Kapoor after her comeback? Whatever is the outcome, she is a winner already, many times over. I do hope she continues her movie career even in her forties, like the Khans. It’s about time a woman did what men have been doing in Bollywood for ages, i.e., play a college student like Amir at 44 😉 or play the female lead opposite the likes of Arjun Kapoor in the manner of Salman Khan romancing Sonaskhi.


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