Happy Birthday,Aishwarya

It’s   amazing how Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s grand daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s career  keeps falling  into place at  an even  pace without  her   trying to.  Just when we thought she was fully into motherhood Aishwarya is back wowing us with her svelte and sensuous avatar as a Urdu poetess in  Karan Johar’a Ae Dil Hai Mushkil.

 There’s no denying Aishwarya’s iconic  star power  and her  ability to transcend the screen space   time after  time  to make  a place among the living icons  .

Aishwarya  is no  longer  just an individual. She’s  a metaphor. When an amateur tries her hand at singing we say, “Listen,she’s trying to be Lata Mangeshkar.” When  a  girl makes a  great attempt to  prettify herself we  turn around say, “Look!Who does she  think she  is? Aishwarya Rai?”

 That wonderfully  articulate man Javed Akhtar who is one of  our entertainment  industry’s most erudite and entertaining intellectuals  once told me , perfection suits  only  two people Lata Mangeshkar and  Aishwarya Rai.

So perfectly  beautiful  is Aishwarya that people tend  to  impose all sorts  of deceptive attributes   on her  character.

Or,  as  Javed Saab  put it so  eloquently people look at  her  face and say, “Chal  jhoothi,  koi  itna khubsoorat  kahin ho saktabhala?” Which  roughly and  rudely  translated  means, “Oh come on, Liar ,who can ever be so  beautiful?”

 It’s a  sad fact of  our  existence. We make  the beautiful  pay for their  beauty. The entertainment  business is suffused with examples of  beautiful  people who are made to  suffer because  of  their  talent and beauty. It’s  like the  rich who have to suffer inglorious blows  to their selfesteem  because the non-privileged classes can’t bear them.

Meena  Kumari passed away  at  40 uncared . They  made her  pay for her  beauty and talent and most importantly for her tragic grandeur.

Guests recall  visiting the magnificent Meena  in her final days.There she lay bedridden   in  the  servants room of  a bungalow owned by her once, but gifted to her sister and brother-in-law Mehmood. Penniless and  dying they had  relegated her to the status of a no one in her own  home.

I am not comparing Aishwarya  to  Meena  Kumari. Good  Lord, no! This one is  too  free-spirited and  happily placed  in her very special world . And always eager to  fill the space around her with  positivity. I’ve seen her in her  two homes, as she calls them, her  parent’s place  before marriage and  at her in-laws’ place after marriage.

 There was no change   in her  attitude. When I had met her in La Mer(the highrise  where she lived with her parents) Aishwarya wasn’t even seeing  Abhishek. I  never  thought  she would  fall in  love with him, let alone spend her life with him.

  I  knew Abhishek was besotted by Aishwarya from the  time  they   did  Kuch Na  Kaho together.  Once a long time ago  when I  was sitting with him Abhishek got an sms from ‘HER’. Boy, he  was so excited !  His expression melted and his face broke into a  gentle smile.

 I should have  guessed what was  coming. After marriage  it was a  while  before I saw them together.  “Come na, you  haven’t seen us together,” Aishwarya  would  urge. When I finally met them together for the  first  time Aishwarya blushed and  laughed with the  joy of  having discovered true love.

It’s amazing how domesticated and simple she is at  heart. Almost  like Sridevi. At home you’ll find  her makeup-less  in  a simple salwar-kameez  or a   pair of  jeans.

“Tu apne aapko samajhti kya ho? Aishwarya Rai?” I  tell her  whenever we meet. And we both  burst  out  laughing.It’s  a standing joke between us. Another  matter  of mutual understanding between  us is that we  sing  Happy Birthday to one another , our birthdays being separated by a day.

 Not a single actress  in our industry has managed what Aishwarya  has.Even  after  marriage she  continues to be  inundated with the best  offers that Mani (Ratnam) can’t  buy.

    One of  Great Britain’s most revered critics Chris Tookey of Daily Mail  compared Aishwarya Rai in  Bride & Prejudice to Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday and Julia Roberts in  Pretty Woman.

           Aishwarya Rai is perfectionist.  In a  world where actresses generally believe in a chalta-hai attitude and run for marriage the minute the opportunity shows up, she strives to be the first real female superstar from Bollywood. What’s wrong with that?

It could be  because the Mumbai media  genuinely find her plastic and artificial as they love to remind readers. But the reason for the severe hostility could be entirely self motivated.

  Aishwarya doesn’t talk to  the press as freely as some of her colleagues who love to spread  themselves out thinly.  Many of the most powerful stars in Mumbai have eaten  crow and patched  up with the very magazines  which have  hurt them and their images the most.

 Not Aishwarya Rai. The magazines and papers which have been the nastiest to her are still smarting under the snub she has so effectively delivered them.  They ‘ve tried every trick  in  the book to make her speak. When they’ve failed to move her into submission they’ve damned her dreams .

It isn’t easy  wearing the crown.  For Aishwarya Rai the climb has been  specially steep and tough.  It’s said , the more the fruits on a tree, the more it’s liable to be stoned by passersby.

   Sanjay Leela Bhansali who created magic on celluloid with Aishwarya  in Hum Dil De Chuke  Sanam and Devdasrecalls their visit to Cannes last May. “Everywhere she went the French people chanted, “Aishwarya Aishwarya!” No doubt she’s an international star.”

Now as she sits over a volcano of praise for her captivating cameo in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil  she can afford to smile. “This whole beauty thing is so redundant. It’s the people around me   who have a problem  with my looks. It’s they who allow ‘it’   to come in the way of assessing my performances sincerely.”

Everyone knows about her bitter parting with Salman Khan. Only close friends know why  she  issued a press statement regarding why she would never  work with  him again. It  was after  Salman Khan’s brother Arbaazwent on a television channel with  a sarcastic comment on how she ‘d work  with a man on a film(BajiraoMastani) for  months if she had  decided to sever all relations with him.

  No  one knows what pain such public sneering  caused  Aishwarya Rai whose magic mantra in life is, “I’ll never do anything to compromise my family and my principles.”  No  one knows about the threats and humiliations she was subjected to just because she said no to  a certain relationship.

        In the face of crippling assault on her dignity , Aishwarya Rai remained  calm and in control.

      Happy Birthday, Mrs Bachchan. We are proud of you.

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