The misunderstood phenomenon called Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Questioning Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s career choices is particularly ironical, given the fact that she has been one actor who has taken risks with her choice of films from the moment go.
The recent onslaught of trolling directed at actor Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, after her latest release, Fanney Khan failed to impress the critics, is amusing at some level and disturbing at another. The fact that actors get credit when films do well, and therefore should be prepared for facing criticism when they don’t, isn’t debatable. What doesn’t fit-in here is the extent and kind of flak that comes Aishwarya’s way when that happens. Feedback from so-called well-wishers turns into sermons on how she should reinvent her career, now that she’s in her 40’s and ‘time’s running out for her’.
Anonymous opinion pieces start floating about, questioning all her career choices till date. The latter is particularly ironical, given the fact that Aishwarya Rai has been one actor who has taken risks with her choice of films from the moment go.
After winning the Miss World title in 1994 and getting the kind of attention she got in the process, the actor was spoilt for choice when it came to her debut vehicle. That she chose Mani Ratnam’s Iruvar over all mainstream Bollywood flicks on the table should have shown - fans and detractors alike – that she prefers the unconventional over the obvious. Why, she refused the historical role of Briseis opposite Brad Pitt in Troy, something that most actors would give an arm and a leg for. This, at a time when blink-and-you-miss-it roles in Hollywood were also being lapped up by Asian actors as gifts from God.
Whether it was the multi-layered character of Nandini in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) or the subtle Neeru in Rituparno Ghosh’s Raincoat five years later, it was clear that the woman chose roles for the depth in them!! If more proof is needed of her tendency to listen to her gut over the roles that ‘experts’ would typically like ‘a beautiful Indian actress who can also dance’ to take up, one could simply look at her decision to play sister to Shah Rukh Khan (Josh; 2000) at a time when such a choice would have been considered suicidal for a heroine at her peak. For a woman with no filmi Godfather, one who chose to marry into the first family of Bollywood and still never looked around to lean on their connections for a career boost, simply having a mind of her own became a bane, when that is one thing most inspirational about her life’s journey. In a profession where facing flak for an outfit choice, a parenting choice, a choice to lose weight at their own pace, a choice to take time-out, a choice when to ‘comeback’ – are anyway considered a par for the course for women actors, at least a choice in the role they wish to take up or not, better be left to them. In peace.
And therefore, a Taal and a Chokher Bali, and an Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and a Sarbjit later, it’s ludicrous to ask Aishwarya Rai why she signed Fanney Khan. She clearly did because in her good judgment, she may have been convinced about the significance of the role, despite the script making it clear that the character came with only 20 minutes of screen time. If the film had worked, a collective applause would have gone the way of a veteran such as Anil Kapoor, a National Award winner such as Rajkummar Rao, and, of course, Aishwarya’s impressive ‘cameo’. If it hasn’t, well, let’s troll Aishwarya and tell her that she needs to make better choices in life. After all, if you look so beautiful despite the age, shouldn’t you grab the opportunity to merely romancing the hero, with both hands! Well, thankfully no. The times have changed and so has the thinking of actors and audiences. It’s time for the trolls to come to the party.
The views expressed are personal
Interact with the author on Twitter/ @sonalkalra