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From the Ashes: Aishwarya Rai's stint as an actress

For some, stardom is the ultimate. For others, being an actor of substance is what matters. One might have felt Aishwarya got lost somewhere on the way. Diganta Guha analyses Aishwarya as an actress.
Hindustan Times | By Diganta Guha, Kolkata
UPDATED ON NOV 01, 2007 08:34 PM IST

AISHWARYA RAI — the lady with a smile that sells crore from Kanpur to Cannes. Is it good enough to describe Aishwarya Rai, ooops, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan? Come on guys! I will be slaughtered by millions of her fans. “How dare you miss out on the fact that she is one of the most successful actresses in the history of Hindi film industry?” they would, for sure, cry out.

Oh My God! She is also an actress. Now how do I forget that? Well, sorry Ash, somehow when I think of you, the TV clippings showing you all smiles after winning the Miss World contest in 1994 come flashing. The many commercials you have done remind me of the beauty you are. I can’t help remembering how I had a crush on ‘Sanjana’ asking for a bottle of Pepsi.

I start wondering how outstandingly out-of-the world you were looking with your husband Abhishek at Tirupathi right after your marriage. But why can’t I speak of any of the roles that you have played so far? Why can’t I marvel at the so-called success you have achieved as an actress?

Okay, okay! My friends would counter this by saying that I am a bit biased towards Rani Mukerji, your archrival. However, the job of a journalist is not to be biased but make an objective assessment of things. So, am I soft on Rani (may be because of our Bengali connections)?

No, I am not. When we compare Aishwarya with her contemporaries —Kajol, Rani and Urmila Matondkar — I see her somewhere lacking that acting prowess. Forget the fact that she has had only a few hits to her credit since her debut in Rahul Rawail’s … Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya in 1997. The question is: did Ash stand out in any of the films she has done, thanks to her acting? I doubt.

If we associate Kajol with

Dushman, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge


Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

and Rani with

Black, Saathiya, Hum Tum

, which film would we associate Ash with if we are talking about standing apart?

Taal, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Chokher Bali



— critics rate these as some of Ash’s mind blowing performances. My point — there isn’t a single film where Ash stood tall, leave aside carrying the film on her shoulders.

Chokher Bali



weren’t hits and I thought she looked too glamorous to be a lower-middle class Hindustani




. In



wasn’t she cast by filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh to add star value? Even a Konkona Sen Sharma would be known with films like

Mrs & Mrs Iyer


15 Park Avenue

. But do we have one film that would go down history as an Aishwarya Rai film?

In most of the successes Ash has had so far, it’s her co-stars who have stolen the show and in some cases justifiably so. Salman Khan and Ajay Devgan in

Hum Dil De

Chuke Sanam, Hrithik Roshan in

Dhoom 2

and her hubby Abhishek Bachchan in Guru. And in Khakee she hardly had anything to do with Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgan around.

And let’s not forget


where she played Paro. Come on guys, what would have happened had Shah Rukh Khan not been there? Well, Ash’s fans might point out that even in

Kuch Kuch Hota Hai,

Kajol had Shah Rukh and Salman or Rani had Big B in Black. But let me tell you friends, when we talk of these films we talk of Kajol-Shah Rukh or Amitabh-Rani in the same breath.

So, is Ash a bad actress? No, she is not. She definitely has it in her. But perhaps, Ash focused too much on her star status that may have played spoilsport. It’s not that she hasn’t had the opportunities. Films like Chokher Bali, Raincoat or her crossovers like Provoked and Balle Balle! from LA to Amritsar did come her way where Ash was promoted to be the USP.

But the net result wasn’t quite satisfactory. On the other hand Rani and Kajol worked on their strengths and limitations to be actresses of substance. They are not as beautiful as Ash is and they don’t have the figure Ash boasts, but still they overtook the latter purely on the basis of their acting skills.

Perhaps, Ash’s strategy didn’t pay her rich dividends. She almost quit Bollywood at a time when she could have easily consolidated her position as the Numero Uno actress. And to be honest, her foreign stint hasn’t quite been worth a cherish (something even she can’t deny).

She may have bagged some plum assignments abroad like The Mistress of Spices, The Last Legion opposite Collin Farrell, The Pink Panther sequel and a movie on the making of the Taj Mahal where she plays Mumtaz Mahal. The last mentioned is produced by actor Ben Kingsley. She will be heavily banking on the Pink Panther and the Taj Mahal project to set the records straight with her previous films abroad not exactly doing well enough.

For some, stardom is the ultimate. For others, being an actor of substance is what matters. One would have felt Ash got lost somewhere on the way.

But this is the right time. She is not getting any younger. To dance around trees or show her legs may not be the right decision at this point of time. What she would do well is to focus on roles that would let her critics (even ‘biased’ ones like yours truly) to take back their criticism.

Bygones are bygones — just being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey or being at the Madame Tussaud’s isn’t enough darling! Knowing Ash and now that she has the guidance of two of the most powerful actors in the history of Indian cinema Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan, she would do well enough and be far more careful while proving her detractors wrong. Many happy returns of the day Ash and sorry if I was a bit harsh on you. The crush may no longer be there, but I still wish you rock and finally as an actress.

No offence meant by the way.

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