She is 40. She is a mother of a toddler. She married into the first family of Bollywood. She hasn’t acted in five years. Just when people sighed and shoved Aishwarya Rai Bachchan into early retirement, she orchestrated a comeback looking like this. Needless to say, jaws dropped.
Size Zero Shenanigans
Two weeks. 14 days. This is the generous amount of time the fashion mafia allows celebrity women to get back in shape. As soon as you pop out the baby, you have to relinquish the labor ward to go huffing and puffing in the gym. But that is not how the real world works. What about postpartum depression, breastfeeding and enveloping yourself in the joy of motherhood? That’s what ordinary moms do, but for the former Miss World trotting out with her baby weight was simply a No No. Yet Aishwarya did just that for a long time.
The thinking was that if Victoria Beckham and Angelina Jolie could do it, Aishwarya should follow suit in dropping pounds. She did not. By refusing to submit to this lopsided Western logic, Aishwarya has set the record straight for all mothers: the baby weight will vanish one day and you will get your curves back — until then celebrate motherhood.
She is one of the World’s most beautiful people. She is also one of the few Indian women to have the international market swooning at her feet. She was given the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by France, a country that loves good looking people. She is the goodwill ambassador of UNAIDS. She is the first Indian celebrity to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show. In Hollywood comedy Pink Panther 2, Aishwarya plays Sonia Solandres, a thieving beauty.
Aishwarya is one of the select few who straddle two worlds (Western and Eastern) effortlessly. She has not stripped to highlight her beauty, nor has she posed nude on glossy magazine covers. Her worst offence is her cringeworthy fake accent. Other that that, she has held her ground both at home and abroad.
Stepping Out of the Shadows
We do agree with Abshishek’s tweet: “I make her look good!! Then again… anybody compared to me will look good!”
But we’re impressed that Aishwarya decided to step solo into the limelight. Being married to Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya could have quietly retired but her appearances have been consistent and her identity remains rock solid.
More Than a Pretty Face: From ‘Iruzar’ to ‘Guzaarish’
Aishwarya debuted in Mani Ratnam’s Iruvar — a political drama set in southern India. Not the dream of every model, nor the choice of a victorious world beauty pageant winner. Yet she rocked this role and proved that she was more than a pretty face. Although many of us feel certain she is a better model than an actress, Aishwarya has ventured into roles that most pretty lasses of Bollywood have avoided.
In Khaki, she plays the gun moll Mahalakshmi; In Rituparna Ghosh’s Raincoat (adaptation of O. Henry’s short story The Gift of the Magi) she plays Neeru who is a passive housewife and a passionate girlfriend strengthened by her poignant performance; In Jag Mundhra’s Provoked she surpasses herself as the battered NRI housewife based on real life Kiranjit Ahluwalia; As Meenakshi, the girl in love with love in Rajiv Menon’s Kandukondein Kandukondein (screen adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility);In Devdas as the invincible Paro; a Rajput princess Jodha in Jodha Akbar; as Sana in the sci fi Enthiran with Rajnikanth; as nurse Sophia in Guzaarish which was also her last screen appearance before her pregnancy.
She was slated to perform the title role for Madhur Bhandarkar’s social drama Heroine but was replaced due to her pregnancy announcement. This kicked up a storm. Was it ethical of Aishwarya to keep her pregnancy undercover when millions of dollars’ worth of reel was already being canned? Should the producers have included a no pregnancy clause? People were shocked. They didn’t seem to realize that for many women, pregnancy is the most unpredictable event in their lives. Without sinking under the weight of the controversy, Aishwarya gracefully glided along to enjoy the next phase of her life.
Having It All, Aishwarya-Style
Aishwarya never stopped working during her pregnancy, even when she was cocooned in motherhood. That is a strong message to those who claim woman are unfit or less eager to handle work during this life-changing period. Her steady stream of endorsements and appearances on the red carpet are not exactly a working girl’s mantle, but she did not entirely step away from the silver screen just because she was married and had a baby. In fact, the news that she has been cast in Sanjay Gupta’s Jazbaa and Mani Ratnam’s next is enough to demonstrate that Bollywood is willing to cast married moms.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was a Miss World in 1994, a Bollywood actress in 1997, became a wife in 2007 and a mother in 2011. But in 2014 she has managed to become the poster woman and a pin up icon for women all over the world. She has taught us that you can have it all on your own terms.
With additional editing by Anita Felicelli.