Childhood & Early Life
Aishwarya Rai was born on November 1, 1973, into a Tulu speaking family in Mangalore, Karnataka, India, to Krishnaraj and Vrinda Rai. Her father was an Army biologist who died on March 18, 2017. Her elder brother, Aditya Rai, is in the merchant navy.
When the family moved to Mumbai, Rai attended ‘Arya Vidya Mandir High School.’ She then went to ‘Jai Hind College’ for a year, and later joined ‘DG Ruparel College’ in Matunga. She secured 90 percent in the intermediate exams.
During her teens, she learnt classical dance and music for five years. Initially, she aspired to become an architect, and enrolled at ‘Rachana Sansad Academy of Architecture.’ However, she gave up her studies to pursue a career in modeling.
She was featured in the American edition of ‘Vogue’ after winning an international supermodel contest organized by ‘Ford’ in 1991.
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In 1993, Aishwarya Rai gained popularity in the modeling industry after appearing in a ‘Pepsi’ advertisement alongside actor Aamir Khan. The breakthrough in her career came in 1994 when she won the second place in the ‘Miss India’ pageant. Subsequently, she was crowned ‘Miss India World.’ She then represented India in the ‘Miss World’ pageant, and won the crown.
In 1997, she made her acting debut with Mani Ratnam's Tamil film ‘Iruvar.’ She portrayed both ‘Pushpavalli’ and ‘Kalpana’ in the film. The same year, she made her Bollywood debut with the film ‘Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya.’
In 1998, she appeared in a Tamil film titled ‘Jeans.’ The film was a commercial success, and she earned praise for her acting and dancing skills. Rai’s first successful Hindi film was Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 1999 romantic drama ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’ where she appeared alongside Salman Khan and Ajay Devgn. She was praised for her beauty and acting skills, and the film pushed her acting career in the right direction.
Her next hit was Subhash Ghai's ‘Taal’ in 1999, where she was featured alongside Akshaye Khanna and Anil Kapoor. She was praised for her acting and dancing prowess. In 2000, she starred in a Tamil film titled ‘Kandukondain Kandukondain,’ for which she earned positive comments for her powerful acting.
In 2000, she also appeared in ‘Josh’ alongside Shah Rukh Khan and Chandrachur Singh. The film earned mixed reviews, but emerged as a commercial success. After her film ‘Dhai Akshar Prem Ke,’ opposite Abhishek Bachchan, flopped in 2000, she appeared in a supporting role in ‘Mohabbatein’ the same year.
After appearing in another flop film titled ‘Hum Kisise Kum Nahin,’ Rai played the lead role in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 2002 love-saga ‘Devdas’ where she appeared opposite Shahrukh Khan. The film, which was a commercial success, was screened at the ‘Cannes Film Festival.’ Rai’s acting skills garnered positive reviews from the critics.
In 2003, her acting skills were once again praised when she delivered a powerful performance in Rituparno Ghosh's Bengali film ‘Chokher Bali,’ which was based on Rabindranath Tagore's novel of the same name. The film was a commercial and critical success.
In 2004, she appeared in the Hindi film ‘Khakee’ where she played the role of a gun moll. The film received moderate critical and commercial success. In the same year, she was featured in ‘Kyun! Ho Gaya Na...’ opposite Vivek Oberoi. The film failed commercially.
In late 2004, Aishwarya Rai earned international acclaim for her role in Gurinder Chadha's British film ‘Bride and Prejudice.’ The film was a commercial success. Her next hit Hindi film was Rituparno Ghosh’s ‘Raincoat.’ The film won the ‘National Film Award’ for ‘Best Feature Film’ in Hindi.
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In 2005, she was featured in ‘Shabd.’ Apart from her acting skills, she was praised for her ‘drop-dead gorgeous’ looks. Her only successful venture that year was a special appearance in ‘Bunty Aur Babli’ in which she was featured in a song titled ‘Kajra Re.’
In 2006, she had two film releases—‘Umrao Jaan’ and ‘Dhoom 2.’ While Rai’s role in ‘Umrao Jaan’ was critically acclaimed, ‘Dhoom 2’ was her first major commercial success since ‘Devdas.’ She also starred in the British drama film ‘Provoked,’ for which she earned positive comments from the critics.
In 2007, she was featured in Mani Ratnam's ‘Guru.’ The film gained international acclaim, and was a commercial success. Rai was highly praised for her fine performance. After a series of unsuccessful films, she garnered success in ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ in 2008. She was praised for her wonderful performance in the film. In the same year, she starred with husband Abhishek and father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan in ‘Sarkar Raj.’
In 2009, she was featured in ‘The Pink Panther 2,’ where she portrayed a criminology expert. In 2010, Rai starred in Mani Ratnam’s ‘Raavan,’ a modern-day adaptation of ‘Ramayana.’ In the film, which was released in Tamil and Hindi, her performance was praised by the critics.
Her next role was opposite South Indian superstar Rajinikanth in the 2010 science fiction Tamil film ‘Enthiran’ which was a successful film. She then appeared in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s drama ‘Guzaarish.’ Although the film flopped, critics described her performance as her best to date. After this film, she took a break from Bollywood due to her pregnancy.
In 2015, she made a comeback with ‘Jazbaa.’ According to the critics, the film scored only because of Rai’s performance. In 2016, she appeared in the biographical movie ‘Sarbjit,’ and her performance was largely criticized. Rai's last release in 2016 was Karan Johar's ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil,’ for which she received positive comments from the critics.
In 2018, she played the role of a singer in the comedy-drama movie ‘Fanney Khan,’ co-starring Anil Kapoor and Rajkummar Rao.