It’s amazing how Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s grand daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s career keeps falling into place at an even pace without her trying to. Just when we thought she was fully into motherhood, Aishwarya was back wowing us with her svelte and sensuous avatar as a Urdu poetess in Karan Johar's Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, released a couple of years ago. Earlier this year, she had Fanney Khan where she had fun playing the haughty glamour diva.
There’s no denying Aishwarya’s iconic star power and her ability to transcend the screen space time after time to make a place among the living icons. Aishwarya, is no longer just an individual. She’s a metaphor. When an amateur tries her hand at singing we say, “Listen, she’s trying to be Lata Mangeshkar.” When a girl makes a great attempt to prettify herself we turn around say, “Look! Who does she think she is? Aishwarya Rai?”
That wonderfully articulate man Javed Akhtar who is one of our entertainment industry’s most erudite and entertaining intellectuals once told me, perfection suits only two people Lata Mangeshkar and Aishwarya Rai.
So perfectly beautiful is Aishwarya that people tend to impose all sorts of deceptive attributes on her character. Or, as Javed Saab put it so eloquently people look at her faceand say, Chal jhoothi, koi itna khubsoorat kahin ho saktabhala?” Which roughly and rudely translated means, “Oh come on, Liar, who can ever be so beautiful?”
It’s a sad fact of our existence. We make the beautiful pay for their beauty. The entertainment business is suffused with examples of beautiful people who are made to suffer because of their talent and beauty. It’s like the rich who have to suffer inglorious blows to their selfesteem because the non-privileged classes can’t bear them.
Meena Kumari passed away at 40 uncared. They made her pay for her beauty and talent and most importantly for her tragic grandeur.
Guests recall visiting the magnificent Meena in her final days. There she lay bedridden in the servants room of a bungalow owned by her once, but gifted to her sister and brother-in-law Mehmood. Penniless and dying they had relegated her to the status of a no one in her own home.
I am not comparing Aishwarya to Meena Kumari. Good Lord, no! This one is too free-spirited and happily placed in her very special world. And always eager to fill the space around her with positivity. I’ve seen her in her two homes, as she calls them, her parent’s place before marriage and at her in-laws’ place after marriage.
There was no change in her attitude. When I had met her in La Mer (the highrise where she lived with her parents) Aishwarya wasn’t even seeing Abhishek. I never thought she would fall in love with him, let alone spend her life with him.
I knew Abhishek was besotted by Aishwarya from the time they did Kuch Na Kaho together. Once a long time ago when I was sitting with him, Abhishek got an sms from ‘HER’. Boy, he was so excited! His expression melted and his face broke into a gentle smile.
I should have guessed what was coming. After marriage it was a while before I saw them together. “Come na, you haven’t seen us together,” Aishwarya would urge. When I finally met them together for the first time Aishwarya blushed and laughed with the joy of having discovered true love.
It’s amazing how domesticated and simple she is at heart. Almost like Sridevi. At home you’ll find her makeup-less in a simple salwar-kameez or a pair of jeans.
“Tu apne aapko samajhti kya ho? Aishwarya Rai?” I tell her whenever we meet. And we both burst out laughing.It’s a standing joke between us. Another matter of mutual understanding between us is that we sing Happy Birthday to one another , our birthdays being separated by a day.
Not a single actress in our industry has managed what Aishwarya has.Even after marriage she continues to be inundated with the best offers that Mani (Ratnam) can’t buy. One of Great Britain’s most revered critics Chris Tookey of Daily Mail compared Aishwarya Rai in Bride & Prejudice to Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday and Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.
Aishwarya Rai is perfectionist. In a world where actresses generally believe in a chalta-hai attitude and run for marriage the minute the opportunity shows up, she strives to be the first real female superstar from Bollywood. What’s wrong with that? It could be because the Mumbai media genuinely find her plastic and artificial as they love to remind readers. But the reason for the severe hostility could be entirely self motivated.
Aishwarya doesn’t talk to the press as freely as some of her colleagues who love to spread themselves out thinly. Many of the most powerful stars in Mumbai have eaten crow and patched up with the very magazines which have hurt them and their images the most.
Not Aishwarya Rai. The magazines and papers which have been the nastiest to her are still smarting under the snub she has so effectively delivered them. They ‘ve tried every trick in the book to make her speak. When they’ve failed to move her into submission they’ve damned her dreams .
It isn’t easy wearing the crown. For Aishwarya Rai the climb has been specially steep and tough. It’s said , the more the fruits on a tree, the more it’s liable to be stoned by passersby.
In the face of crippling assaults on her dignity for varied reasons, Aishwarya Rai remains calm and in control.
Happy Birthday, Mrs Bachchan. We are proud of you.