Bollywood’s beloved Aishwarya Rai Bachchan will always reign as one of India’s first successful crossover stars.
From her debut film, the Tamil language “Iruvar” in 1997 to the recently released “Fanney Khan,” the actress has gone on to star in several English-language films, stunned at international red carpets, appeared on American talk shows, graced several magazine covers across the world, and married into one of Bollywood’s biggest families.
After winning the Miss India crown in 1994, Rai Bachchan had already established herself in Indian cinema with major hits like “Taal” and “Devdas.”
“Devdas” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2002 and started the glorious tradition of Rai Bachchan’s magnificent ensembles on the red carpet of it almost every year since.
In 2004, she was cast as the lead in Gurinder Chadha’s Indo-British drama “Bride and Prejudice,” a desi take on Jane Austen’s novel “Pride and Prejudice.” She also became the first Indian actress to be a part of the jury at Cannes. A year later, “60 Minutes” did an entire feature called “The World’s Most Beautiful Woman.”
Rai Bachchan made her first appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show in 2005. A few years later, she appeared again with her husband Abhishek Bachchan in tow.
Rai Bachchan created a stir on the talk show circuit that same year with her appearance on David Letterman’s show while promoting “Bride and Prejudice.” When asked and subtly made fun of for still living with her parents, as most children in India do, she had her comeback ready to go. Her snarky and confident personality here has continued to shine even now.
She went on to lead the cast of Chadha’s “The Mistress of Spices,” which also starred Dylan McDermott and Padma Lakshmi. She also starred in 2007’s Jag Mundhra-directed “Provoked” alongside Andrews, Karen David, Miranda Richardson, and Nandita Das. In the same year, she worked in the action film “The Last Legion” alongside Colin Firth, Kevin McKidd, and Ben Kingsley.
All of these movies weren’t blockbuster hits or full-on Hollywood films but it helped further cement Rai Bachchan’s name in the West. Meanwhile, she continued to work build an impressive roster of Bollywood films like “Jodhaa Akbar,” “Raincoat,” and working opposite her future husband Abhishek Bachchan in acclaimed movies like “Guru” and “Dhoom 2”
In 2009, she got her first major role in a big-budget Hollywood film, “The Pink Panther 2.” She played criminology expert Sonia Solandres opposite “The Pink Panther” star Steve Martin. After doing a bunch of Indian films in 2010, Rai Bachchan took a hiatus from acting for a few years after the birth of her daughter Aaradhya. However, that didn’t stop her from showcasing her fabulous fashion sense on red carpets, especially at Cannes.
Rai Bachchan is also the face of international brands like L’Oreal and Longines, with her posters being showed off over the world.
The actress has stepped into the next stage of her career, returning to acting with 2015’s “Jazbaa.” She hasn’t announced any plans for any Hollywood projects yet but we’re keeping our fingers crossed.
In her own way, she’s been a trailblazer and forged a path for Indian actors like Priyanka Chopra, Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur and more who are now establishing themselves as crossover stars as well.