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Friday, June 2, 2023

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s Smaller Roles: Effective for Film Narratives?

We often associate the words Glamour, Charisma, beauty and Formidability with the name, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

Many of us 90s kids have grown up watching Mrs Bachchan’s work. In fact, as a child, I was so enamoured by her work that I even tried to ape the Yoga exercises from Taal!

Without the shadow of a doubt, Aishwarya is one of Indian cinema’s finest actresses and according to media, “the most beautiful woman in the world.”

Of recent, however, we have seen the Sarbjit actress portray supporting characters in major films like Ae Dil Hai Mushkil and Fanney Khan.

I try to explore if such roles actually suit Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and to what extent they have an impact on the movies’ narratives.

Saba Taliyar Khan – Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (adhm) (2016)

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s performance in this film oozes of adaa, tehzeeb and allure. The way she gracefully cites Shayaris reminds one of Rekha.

With regards to Aishwarya’s role in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, Hindustan Times penned:

“Saba is what you imagine Aishwarya to be — sexy, smart, independent and someone with a great sense of self-importance.”

On the other hand, there have been critics who have wished that the Devdas actress had more screen time.

For instance, Shubhra Gupta of Indian Express penned, “Rai Bachchan is eye-catching as the older, experienced woman but I wish she was given more time to channel hurt.”

Though Aishwarya has limited screen-time in this Karan Johar film, her role as Saba is very pivotal to the film’s narrative.

In the movie, we see a heart-broken Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) meeting a divorced poetess Saba Taliyar Khan (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), who at first is keen not to fall in love and is significantly older to him.

Eventually, “Dard Dard Ko Dhoond Hi Leta Hai” and Saba falls for Ayaan, though he never really loves her back in that same way. This results in her telling him to leave.

Initially, I felt as though Aishwarya’s appearance in the film was quite brief. However, after watching the film again, I realised that she is truly ideal for the role because she exudes beauty with brains and ONLY she can portray this with such style and finesse.

Moreover, the role requires an actor to exhibit the maturity of letting a loved-one go after realising it is unrequited love. Considering that Aishwarya is in a mature state of life, the ADHM role is perfect for her.

Plus, despite Saba being a highly beautiful and available woman, Ayan still cannot forget his love Alizeh (Anushka Sharma).

Therefore, her character represents the idea that love exceeds beauty and it is truly about what we feel within, hence, Rai Bachchan fits that role as she was Miss World.

Baby Singh – Fanney Khan (2018)

What springs to your mind when we say “Beyonce”? A Superstar with a voice of gold and a diva with a sassy demeanour. Well, this is what Aishwarya presents in Fanney Khan. 

In the movie, she gets kidnapped by the failed singer Prashant aka Fanney (Anil Kapoor) and for ransom, demands that his daughter Lata (Pihu Sand) gets to record a song.

There have been a few critics who have slated her work in the film. For instance, critic Ananya Bhattacharya said:

“Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is among the weakest bits of Fanney Khan. The 15 odd minutes that she gets is a repeat of what we have seen in Aishwarya’s last film, Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.

The blowout hair to the clothes, Baby Singh lets her hair and makeup talk more than her character.”

I partially agree with Bhattacharya’s view. I did feel that the seductive, glamorous and spunky quotients are reminiscent of Saba Taliyar Khan.

Like Saba, there is also a sensitive tone to Baby Singh’s role. We understand her frustration of adhering to superstardom and how she craves being Sumitra Singh – her real self.

In addition, the Baby Singh character illustrates the concept of how fame is not everything. Again, having been a fashion and cinematic superstar herself, this aspect resonates well with Aishwarya’s on-screen persona.

As such, there is a sense of solitude which is also apparent in the ADHM character. Plus, considering that she is in the film for 15 minutes or so, it makes us wonder why she chose to do the film when really speaking, anyone could’ve done the role.

Another common factor in both ADHM and Fanney Khan is that Aishwarya romances young actors on-screen, those being Ranbir Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao, respectively.

Could this be a reason why she has chosen to both movies – due to the fact that there is an opportunity to play love interests to young heroes?

Furthermore, it must be acknowledged of how effortless the romantic sequences are, considering that is an age-gap between the actors and characters alike.

But regardless of how one found Fanney Khan, one cannot deny that Aishwarya still has that charm and aura on celluloid.

Though the film may not turn out to be a box-office success, Rai Bachchan’s quotients are a treat to watch.

Overall, it can be concluded that both of her roles in Ae Dil and Fanney Khan are brief, exude a similar vibe and fulfil purposes in the movies.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan never fails to sparkle the screen with her graceful and ethereal presence. Perhaps this is why she is still and will always be a producer’s favourite.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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