It's been more than 15 years since Aishwarya Rai Bachchan burst into the world of Bollywood movies. And there has been no looking back for her since then. The actress, who made her acting debut with Iruvar(1997), has worked with some well-known directors in the industry and has been a part of successful films like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), Devdas (2002) and Jodhaa Akbar (2008). She has also proven her acting prowess in parallel films such as Rituparno Ghosh's 2004 film Raincoat and Chokher Bali (2003). She has attracted international media with cross-over films like Bride and Prejudice (2004) and The Pink Panther 2 (2009) etc.
As Ash turns 40 today, here's a look at some of her memorable films.
In over 15 years, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has made celluloid magic in films directed by and co-starring some of Indian cinema's brightest. As a 40th birthday present to her, we've picked our 10 favourite Aishwarya roles.
Sujata in Guru (2007): The film that began the Aishwarya-Abhishek romance starred the queen of hearts as the village belle who becomes future industrialist Gurukant Desai's wife. Ash's performance was hailed by critics as subtle and nuanced.
Jodhaa in Jodhaa Akbar (2008): Ash's portrayal of Jodhaabai, the beautiful and courageous Rajput princess who became Emperor Akbar's queen, is unanimously considered among her career-best performances. Co-starring Hrithik Roshan as Akbar, Ash looked and played the part perfectly.
Nandini in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999): In the film that made Bollywood take her seriously as an actress, Ash essentially played two roles – the carefree spirited girl who captures the heart of a visiting music student, and the wife who must choose between the husband she was compelled to marry and the lover she was forced to abandon. Ash's performance fetched her the Filmfare Award for Best Actress.
Binodini in Chokher Bali (2003): In acclaimed director Rituparno Ghosh's period piece, Aishwarya played a beautiful but scheming widow who has an affair with her friend's husband. In a clutch of stellar performances, Ash's was singled out for special praise.
Anita in Sarkar Raj (2008): Ram Gopal Varma's soci-economic drama was a family affair for the Bachchans with Ash playing strong-minded CEO Anita Rajan whose path intersects with that of the father-son political power wieldered played by Amitabh and Abhishek.
Paro in Devdas (2002): Sanjay Leela Bhansali cast Ash as the seductive, strong-willed and stubborn girl-next-door in his grandiose version of Devdas, co-starring Shah Rukh Khan and Maadhuri Dixit. Ash's performance as the mercurial Paro won her a second Filmfare Best Actress award.
Meenakshi in Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000): In the Tamil adaptation of Jane Austen novel Sense And Sensibility, Aishwarya was charming as the music-loving sister in an all-woman family driven out of their home by a greedy uncle and aunt. She held her own against acclaimed actors Mammotty and Tabu.
Neeru in Raincoat (2004): Aishwarya took even her critics by surprise in this adaptation of the short story The Gift Of The Magi by O Henry. She delivered a fantastic performance as Ajay Devgn's lover who is separated from him by a quirk of fate.
Sofia in Guzaarish (2010): Sanjay Leela Bhansali cast his favourite actress in the role of a nurse who looks after paralyzed magician Ethan , played by Hrithik Roshan, and supports him in his quest to secure a state sanction for a mercy killing.
Sunehri in Dhoom 2 (2006): That body, those eyes, that hair. Dhoom 2's thief-turned-police spy was never going to win Ash any acting awards but she was unforgettable as the beguiling Sunehri in what turned out to be a blockbuster entertainer.