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Friday, December 8, 2023

10 Standout Performances of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (ARB) has become the epitome of glamour, charisma, beauty and formidability.

The winner of Miss World 1994 – who has often been cited by the media as “the most beautiful woman in the world” has become the queen of hearts over so many years.

As such, the 45-year-old actress has received numerous accolades, including two Filmfare Awards from eleven nominations.

She was honoured with the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 2009.

Furthermore, she was bestowed with the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the Government of France in 2012.

In a special ode to the Cannes Film Festival darling, Filme Shilmy reflects on 10 ace performances of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (HDDS): 1999

Whether it’s running in the desert or the vibrant costumes, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan stuns with flying colours as the Gujarati belle, Nandini in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam.

This Sanjay Leela Bhansali extravaganza catapulted the starlet into superstardom, leading on to her winning the Filmfare Best Actress award.

Her character Nandini is like a ‘teekhi Mirchi’, a woman who does not conform to conventions of society – even after a marriage against her will.

Furthermore, Nandini becomes like a sage who stops at no cost to find her love Sameer (Salman Khan).

In a positive review, critic Michael Dequina praises:

“Rai, in a luminous, award-winning performance (largely considered her big dramatic breakthrough – and justifiably so), fills in the conflicted emotional shades that Khan fails to bring with his one-dimensional presence.”

Kandukondain Kandukondain: 2000

A beautifully crafted piece of cinema, this is amongst few films that can be watched on repeat and is yet refreshing each time.

Based on Jane Austen’s classic novel Sense and Sensibility, this Tamil film depicts the trials and tribulations of two sisters Soumya (Tabu) and Meenakshi (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan).

Aishwarya plays a passionate artist who lives in her own dreamy and poetic world.

But faced with a sudden turn of events, both Meenakshi and Soumya’s lives and loves are put to the test.

The Rajiv Menon celebrates womanhood and tackles the double-standards within the society.

Furthermore, Rai Bachchan portrays the transition of Meenakshi’s character from a childish girl to a mature woman, effortlessly.

Devdas: 2002

Rai Bachchan’s portrayal of Paro in Devdas (an adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel of the same name) is definitely an iconic role in her filmography.

A role that was once essayed by the legend Suchitra Sen, Aishwarya brings her quotient of glamour and visual appeal to this Bengali character.

Like Nandini, Parvati aka Paro is a pristine and unconventional woman.

In a male-dominated era, Paro rebels against odds and holds her self-respect to the highest regard… Even if it’s about letting her loved one go.

Aishwarya’s performance screams of exuberance, grace and excellence.

Chokher Bali: 2003

This Rituparno Ghosh Bengali masterpiece is based on Rabindranath Tagore’s novel of the same name.

Aishwarya plays a bride who is left widowed when her ailing husband dies soon after their marriage.

Soon after she is left to her own devices and gets abandoned by people she trusted

A girl trapped in unwanted circumstances amidst complex beings, this National Award winning film is a poignant watch.

It deals with issues such as distrust, adultery, lies and falling-out.

Raincoat: 2004

Raincoat is an underrated film, once again wonderfully made by Rituparno Ghosh. It is an adaptation of the short story The Gift of the Magic by O. Henry.

It tells the story of two lovers (played by Ajay Devgn and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) separated by destiny, who meet again one day.

This encounter allows each to realise the truth about the lives they are living.

Aishwarya’s depiction of Neeru, a gloomy and financially insecure lady is first-rate.

The way we see her hiding her hiding emotions and her deficiency of money, makes one sympathise with her plight.

It is interesting how the raincoat is also used as a symbol of disguise.

Dhoom 2: 2006

“Are you like, checking me out?” Dhoom 2 marked Mrs Bachchan in a confident, strong woman of today, in a non-Indian clad.

Aishwarya scorches the screen as Sunehri, a woman who idolises the maverick thief, Mr A (Hrithik Roshan).

The challenge here is taking your eyes off of her, more so during the ‘Crazy Kiya Re’ song as Aishwarya dances marvellously.

It must be noted that her chemistry with Hrithik is exquisite, to say the least – especially during the basketball sequence.

But not only does she increase the glamour quotient, we see different variations to her character which adds twists and turns in the film’s narrative.

Provoked: 2007

Jag Mundhra’s Provoked marks Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s first endeavour at playing a real-life character.

She essays Kiranjit Ahluwalia, a Punjabi woman who accidentally torches her abusive husband.

Ahluwalia’s shocking true story compelled a change in the British criminal law.

A biographical film that does not shy away from realism and grit, Aishwarya’s calibre shines in this de-glam role.

We see her change from this timid/subdued housewife to a confident and independent with such ease and flair.

Without being preachy or boastful, Provoked exudes female empowerment, as well as depicting a journey of self-discovery.

This definitely ranks amongst her finest performances ever.

Jodhaa Akbar: 2008

Playing the role of the Hindu Rajput queen Jodhaabai, Rai Bachchan brings opulence, grace and feistiness to the character.

Despite Jodhaa gets married to Muslim emperor Akbar (Hrithik Roshan), the queen maintains her dignity, culture/religion.

Jodhaa does not allow the marriage of convenience to impact or influence her whatsoever.

Aishwarya does not just adhere to the glamour aspect.

We also see her in an action-packed avatar where she sword fights with her emperor husband as well as her brother (played by Sonu Sood).

Mrs Bachchan proves that she is more than just a pretty face and actually brings beauty through every performance.

Sarbjit: 2016

The story of Sarbjit is heart-wrenching and Aishwarya plays yet another real-life character.

She plays Dalbir Kaur – whose brother Sarbjit (Randeep Hooda) was sentenced to death by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1991.

Consequently, Sarbjit spent 22 years in prison for alleged terrorism and spying, whilst Dalbir stopped at no cost to fight for her brother’s freedom.

Anupama Chopra lauds this as ‘Aishwarya’s bravest and most challenging role’ and we could not agree more.

From expressions to dialogue delivery, Rai Bachchan delivers a performance which stirs the soul of viewers. Definitely the performance of a lifetime.

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.

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.

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.

On the whole, our list of 10 is a tip-of-the-iceberg regarding her talent and calibre as an actor.

As such, our write-up proves that ARB is more than just a glamorous persona.

Many of her roles, regardless of how small, have their own strength and capability. 

Subsequently, this list proves that Aishwarya is worth it!

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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