She won the Miss World crown in 1994 and her beauty has only increased ever since. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has carved an impressive career for herself both as a model and as an actor during all these years. She’s got a one-in-a-million kind of face and that, along with her acting chops, makes her a formidable box office draw indeed. We present a list of some of Aishwarya’s best movies down the years on the occasion of her birthday. Enjoy!
Director: Mani Ratnam
Cast: Mohanlal, Prakash Raj, Aishwarya Rai
The film was loosely based on the life and times of MGR and Karunanidhi, though Mani Ratnam never officially commented on that. MGR was brought to life by Mohanlal in one of his most sublime performances while Prakash Raj gave his career’s best performance as the poet-politician Thamizhselvan and won a National Award for the same. Aishwarya Rai made her big-screen debut through this film and played the dual role of Jayalalitha and Mohanlal’s wife. Talking about the role in an interview as an actor, she mentioned that the role offered her an entire life-span of a character. It had a lot of variations. Prakash Raj won the National Award (Best Supporting Actor) for his phenomenal performance in the film but despite his earnest work, Mohanlal did not get the National award.
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cast: Salman Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Ajay Devgn
The rumours of Salman and Aishwarya Rai’s affair were at the peak when the film was released. It was said to be inspired by Woh Saat Din (1983), starring Naseeruddin Shah, Anil Kapoor and Padmini Kolhapure. Nandini (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) is the daughter of Pandit Darbar (Vikram Gokhale), a respected name in the Indian classical field. Sameer (Salman Khan), an NRI comes to learn classical vocals from him and falls for Nandini. Meanwhile, her father arranges for Nandini to be married to Vanraj (Ajay Devgn). She’s heartbroken when Sameer leaves at her father’s insistence and reluctantly marries Vanraj. He’s initially enraged when he learns she loves another but later vows to unite them together. However, seeing his caring attitude she begins loving him and goes back to him even after finding Sameer in Europe. Salman and Aishwarya looked like a made for each other couple in the film and Ajay’s brooding presence was the icing on the cake. Ismail Darbar made a fine album containing folk tunes which remains hugely popular even now.
Director: Subhash Ghai
Cast: Anil Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, Akshaye Khanna, Alok Nath and Amrish Puri
This rich boy meets poor girl love story was buoyed by AR Rahman’s compositions, some of his finest till date. Songs like Ishq bina, Taal se taal mila, Ramta jogi, Kahin aag lage et al still remain mass favourites. Aishwarya Rai looked ethereal in every frame while Anil Kapoor ate up the opposition in his effortless act of a cynical music producer. Shahid Kapoor incidentally was one of the background dancers in the song Kahin aag lage. The film boosted Aishwarya’s popularity in both India and abroad and paved her way towards superstardom.
Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000)
Director: Rajiv Menon
Cast: Mammootty, Ajith Kumar, Tabu, Aishwarya Rai, Abbas
The film is based on Jane Austen’s 1811 novel Sense and Sensibility. It has three love stories running parallel. Meenakshi (Aishwarya Rai) is the younger sister of Sowmya (Tabu). Their family falls on hard times due to circumstances and both sisters deal with it in their own way. Sowmya leaves everything to fate while Meenakshi believes in carving her own destiny. Somya falls in love with a struggling filmmaker Manohar (Ajith Kumar) while Meenakshi is initially in love with Srikanth (Abbas), who later abandons her to marry a rich heiress. Meenakshi then falls in love with Major Bala (Mammootty), a war veteran who has lost his leg. He thinks she’s taking pity on him but she convinces him that she’s genuinely in love with him. Sowmya and Manohar have their set of differences but later they get resolved and the couple gets a happy ending. The entire ensemble cast was praised for its acting.
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai
Shah Rukh Khan plays Devdas, a wealthy law graduate who returns from London and finds himself in love with his next-door neighbour Paro (Aishwarya). However, because of the class difference between them, his family doesn’t consent to their marriage. Devdas becomes heartbroken and becomes an alcoholic because of the pain of separation from his childhood sweetheart. Paro’s mother marries her into a family which is richer than Devdas’ family. She marries a widower with children who has no interest in her. Devdas finds succour in the arms of a courtesan Chandramukhi (Madhuri Dixit). He just can’t reconcile himself with the separation and his health deteriorates. In the end, he takes his last breath at the gate of Paro’s new home. She can only watch helplessly from afar as he dies. Bhansali took several liberties with the original source material while making this film. The chief among them being the song Dola re dola, where Parvati and Chandramukhi were seen dancing together.
Director: Rajkumar Santoshi
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgan, Aishwarya Rai, Tushar Kapoor
Ajay Devgn played the antagonist in this multi-starrer and was admired for his role. Anant Srivastav (Amitabh) is an honest DCP who must complete his duty against all odds. He hasn’t risen to the heights he deserved because of his honest nature. He has been given a job to bring an alleged terrorist Ansari (Atul Kulkarni) to Mumbai. He is accompanied by Sub Inspector Ashwin Gupte (Tusshar Kapoor), Inspector Shekhar Verma (Akshay Kumar), and Constable Kamlesh Sawant (Kamlesh Sawant). The team meets Mahalakshmi (Aishwarya), a school teacher who helps them out. Along the way, the team learns that Ajay Devgn (Yashwant Angre), a former police inspector turned criminal, ACP Naidu (Prakash Raj), Minister Deodhar (Sabyasachi Chakravarthy) have all joined hands to cover a criminal conspiracy. Aishwarya plays a grey-shaded character in the film. She was the film’s hidden trump card. No one expected her character to be what she was. It was a totally different role from what she had done till then and the audience appreciated her for it.
Director: Rituparno Ghosh
Cast: Ajay Devgn and Aishwarya Rai
It was an adaptation of the story The Gift of the Magi (1906) by O. Henry. Shot primarily in a one-room set-up, the film is all about a chance meeting of former lovers who pretend to be more prosperous than they actually are in order to make each other happy. It’s basically a set of conversations between two people intercut with a series of flashbacks and ends in a bitter-sweet way as both try to do good for the other. It was unlike any other film both Ajay and Aishwarya had done so far. They had looked good together in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) and carried forward their chemistry. Ajay showed that he doesn’t need a gun or a charged-up setting to showcase histrionics. That he can emote in a simple, dialogue-oriented film as well.
Dhoom 2 (2006)
Director: Sanjay Gadhvi
Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Uday Chopra
Sanjay Gadhvi was at the helm again for the sequel which came out two years later. Abhishek Bachchan was still the gritty cop but Uday was somehow pushed into the police force as a police inspector. This time, the influence seems to be the Mission Impossible franchise in the sense that the film had a super-intelligent thief, Mr A, played by Hrithik Roshan who made extensive use of face masks, just in the MI films. Besides Hrithik, it had another acrobatic thief in the form of Aishwarya Rai. She’s actually a bait put forward by Abhishek to catch Mr A but ends up falling in love with him. The film was shot extensively abroad in Rio and Durban. Hrithik and Aishwarya’s chemistry crackled, and the well-crafted stunts gave it an edge-of-the-seat feel. It was one of the first films to make extensive use of CGI and green screen.
Director: Mani Ratnam
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Madhavan, Vidya Balan, Mithun Chakraborty, Arya Babbar
Guru is a biopic telling the story of business tycoon Dhirubhai Ambani’s rise to fame and fortune. Abhishek Bachchan essayed the titular role while Aishwarya Rai played his wife. The movie begins in a small village of Gujarat where a young man named Gurukant “Guru” Desai dreams of making it big someday. Guru goes to Turkey in order to enter the spice market but rather he decides to work for himself. The later Guru goes to Mumbai along with his wife and her brother and starts trading in cloth. He expands his business gradually and sets up manufacturing units of his own, under the name Shakti Corporation. Manik Dasgupta (Mithun Chakraborty), who publishes a newspaper Swatantra, treats Guru as his son. Guru likewise looks upon him as a father figure who gives him support during his early days of struggle in Bombay. Guru’s tactics grow more ruthless and border on unlawful activities as his business grows. He smuggles machine parts for his polyester mills, illegally creates goods, and manipulates stocks to make a higher profit. But when Manik Dasgupta learns that Guru’s means of success are not always honest, he, along with a reporter of his newspaper, Shyam Saxena (Madhavan), decide to expose Guru’s increasingly corrupt ways. Abhishek gave one of the finest performances of his career as Guru, while Aishwarya acted as his moral compass in the film and gave him able company.
Director: Jag Mundhra
Cast: Aishwarya Rai, Robbie Coltrane, Miranda Richardson, Naveen Andrews
The film was based on an actual domestic abuse case that brought in a landmark judgement for domestic violence victims. Aishwarya was praised for her apt portrayal of a battered housewife who kills her husband after suffering years of abuse. Kiranjit Ahluwalia (Aishwarya Rai), a Punjabi woman, marries Deepak Ahluwalia (Naveen Andrews) in an arranged marriage and moves to Southall, UK with him to be closer to his family. Initially, he seems caring and affectionate towards her but soon enough the true colours of her husband begin to show as Deepak gradually reveals a darker, threatening, and even sociopathic side of himself. After enduring ten years of abuse and having two children with him, Kiranjit, unable to bear the brutality and repeated rapes at the hands of her husband any longer, sets fire to his feet while he is sleeping, unintentionally killing him.
Jodhaa Akbar (2008)
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Cast: Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan, Sonu Sood, Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Ila Arun
This historical romance tells the story of how Rajput princess Jodha (Aishwarya Rai), married to King Akbar (Hrithik Roshan) for political alliance learns to let go of her prejudices and falls in love with her husband. He too begins to look inward, thanks to her influence and becomes a better ruler in the process. The film was shot on a grand scale and had plenty of action juxtaposed with the romance. AR Rahman’s music was another highlight of this poetic film. Both Aishwarya and Hrithik did full justice to their roles and looked like they were born to play their characters.
Director: Mani Ratnam
Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Vikram, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Govinda, Nikhil Dwivedi, Ravi Kishan, Priyamani
Ragini Sharma (Aishwarya Rai), out on a boating trip, is kidnapped by Beera Munda (Abhishek). Her husband Dev Pratap Sharma (Vikram), the superintendent of police, is informed of her abduction. He immediately uses all the forces he has at his disposal to get her back. What follows is a cat and mouse chase between Beera and Dev. Beera is supposed to be the villain and Dev is supposed to be the hero but all is not what it seems. Raavan is Mani Ratnam’s take on the Ramayana. Set against the backdrop of lush forests, deep gorges, inundated streams and never-stopping rain, the film is a visual spectacle alright. Close proximity to Beera, who is revered as a god among his people, makes Ragini realise his good qualities. She begins to understand why he became an outlaw. A bond of affection develops between him and Ragini. Dev takes advantage of that and in the end uses Ragini as a bait to trap Beera.
Director: Omung Kumar
Cast: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Randeep Hooda, Richa Chadha, Darshan Kumar
Sarbjit Singh was born in Bhikhiwind, located along the Indo-Pakistani border in the Tarn Taran district of Punjab. He was caught by Pakistani rangers near Kasur and claimed he had crossed over the border in an inebriated state. The Pakistani police initially charged him for trespassing but later accused him of being an Indian terrorist. He spent 22 years in jail, from 1991 till his death in 2013. Various mercy petitions were filed on his behalf but all got rejected. Even the intervention of the Government of India wasn’t enough to get him freed. He was killed by prison inmates, some say as retaliation towards the hanging of Afzal Guru. The film is told from the viewpoint of Sarbjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur, played by Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. The film opened to good critical acclaim and both Aishwarya and Randeep were praised for their performances.
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016)
Director: Karan Johar
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Fawad Khan
The film explored the older woman-younger man’s dynamics. Ranbir Kapoor’s chemistry with Aishwarya Rai sizzled on the screen. The film is narrated in the flashback by Ayan Sanger (Ranbir Kapoor). A few years ago in London, he met Alizeh Khan (Anushka Sharma), by chance and both immediately connected. He begins to love her but she only considers him a friend. They spend some time in Paris but the status quo remains the same. Alizeh reconciles with her boyfriend and later marries him, much to Ayan’s disappointment. Meanwhile, he meets an older woman, Saba Taliyar Khan (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), a poet, based in Vienna. He goes to Vienna to meet her and though he’s physically attracted to her, he cannot forget Alizeh and seeing that Saba asks him to leave. When he meets Alizeh again, he finds out she’s dying of cancer and they both try to spend as much time as they can with each other before the end.