Sunday, 21 August 2011

Aishwarya Rai ! The tragedy of being an also-ran....

Close your eyes and imagine the most beautiful face you can. Chances are it would match with Miss World, Ms. Movie Star, Mrs Bachchan and now Mommy-to-be , Aishwarya Rai.

Endless press, endless praise and envy and yet so, so little achieved beyond the beauty queen crown. And that is the tragedy. To be branded Queen bee and still be left holding the runner-up trophy everytime.

It is no surprise though. Just about everyone would have cooed to her when she was a baby,admired in school , ogled at in college, her breezing through auditions as a model and having every filmmaker panting to launch her. No wonder then that substance could never overtake her looks. I mean, why work at things like acting or developing any other aspect of your personality or repertoire (or laugh) , when things came so easy. 

Achievements? Her efficient publicists will be able to answer that best, but here is a no-holds-barred list of why Ms. Rai always ended up with second-best . Sad but true.

Miss India and all that jazz
Who can forget the favourite Ms.Rai getting pipped at the post by dark horse Sushmita Sen at the Miss India pageant eons ago . The reason? The overconfident and  vain Ms. Rai claimed in the final round that if born earlier she would have changed the course of history. She lost the crown and was left to compete for Miss World instead of the more prestigious Ms. Universe . Having said this, Ms. Rai should have stuck to modelling .She's the perfect mannequin.

Film career - Bollywood
A dismal track record for a commercial actress . Even more so, considering she had the best of directors and banners . The statistics? In a movie career spanning 15 years , there have been barely 5 hits out of about 45 Bollywood movies she's worked in . Possibly her best was in Ashutosh Gowarikar's Jodha Akbar,which was way better than the nautanki performance in the overhyped Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Devdas.

Today , any movie insider will tell you that its Katrina, Kareena and even the intellectual Vidya Balan who are more viable. And it shows in every poll where they are regularly chosen by the movie-going public above Ms. Rai , as the most beautiful, sexy, what-have-you. Another dream of being considered the best , being relegated to second best

Film career - Hollywood
The less said about this embarassing chapter , the better. Firstly, most of the projects are what is called "off-Hollywood", that is independent producers who make "cross-over cinema" . Bride and Prejudice, Mistress of Spices, Provoked don't count as Hollywood .
Secondly, her Hollywood movies like Pink Panther and The Last Legion were rejected by critics and audiences alike
Thirdly , a lot of hot air was floated about being offered a role as the Bond girl (denied by the producers), and movies like Chaos (with Meryl Streep) and Racing the Moon (with Michael Douglas) which are yet to see the light of day. This is like Gulshan Grover's claims of working with Penelope Cruz. Of course, Rai also claimed she was offered a role in Rolan Joffe's Singularity, which is now being played by Bipasha Basu.

And then in 2008 came along this middle class , plain girl from Malad called Freida Pinto who reached the Oscars with her very first film , without the help of overpaid PR machinery. No prizes guessing who Hollywood will turn to if they want an exotic face - it won't be Ms. Rai, who once again has been left with her nose pressed against the shop window.

One place where she shines (modelling is her forte after all). But because its linked with her celebrity, as her marketability falls, so do the endorsements. Lost to others with poor personal grace on the part of Ms. Rai . Whether its reportedly cutting out Sonam Kapoor from Cannes in 2010, or saying others get her rejects because brands can't afford her (or is it that Ms. Rai's no longer worth the money?)

"I don't know about the Khans. We are the Bachchans" she claimed when disdainfully dismissing Karan Johar's question in 2010 about whom she thought was the Khan of all seasons. I mean honestly , the  pomposity of that statement. Madam, any achievement by the Bachchans is that of Amitabh Bachchan. Even Abhishek Bachchan would never make a statement like you did. I mean the Khans together have generated hundreds of crores in the past two years , and the Bachchans (including you)  have lost approximately that amount for the industry during the same time.
Which really brings one back to a question- Would Ms. Rai have married Abhishek had he not been a Bachchan? An actress , not doing too well, alienated from the bigwigs of the industry, finds this marriage of extreme convenience. Get respectability , even if it means dumping the hapless Vivek Oberoi. Again, her husband is not the achiever which any girl who looked like Aishwarya would expect.She ended up with second-best again.

What should have been a happy and relaxed time for any mother, turned out to be unnecessarily controversial thanks to her own desire to revive a career peppered with disasters over the last two years. How important can it be for a pregnant woman to do an emotionally and physically draining role, whose shoot would go well into her second trimester? And then to threaten to sue the producers for wanting to drop you from the film, where you yourself had concealed facts from the outset ! Ulta chor kotwal ko daatey!
And now we hear that Aishwarya will not sell the baby pictures even though an international magazine has offered to buy them. How noble ! The reality is that no international magazine will pay big bucks for Bachchan pictures as non-Indians are'nt waiting with bated breath on this. And Indian editions of international titles will never pay kingly sums either, as the Indian magazine market just does not have those margins. So rejecting a pittance is hardly a monetary sacrifice, but is meant to make people feel-Wah !
Regular women out there do better my dear.

Obviously this post is not for Aishwarya Rai fans . You may ask "How could she have got so many honours and achievements , if she was'nt the best? "

My question EXACTLY !! Wake up and smell the coffee folks. Given whats mentioned above , hats off to her PR people and the brands she endorses for getting her the right visibility and "honours".....

Read an old article in Tehelka for a similar analysis 6 years ago

Well,  good PR can fool the people some of the time , but still can't get the paying public into the halls. Its my view and thats it.

The latest news July 2012 courtesy the spin doctors handling her PR :
What they say: "Aishwarya is a hands on mum doing everything for the kid"
What they mean : "Aishwarya is SOO busy with the kid that there's no time for movies and endorsements"
What the actual scene is : There are no movies or endorsements happening, so rather than say that, let her project the perfect mom stuff. I mean if she really was so bothered would she have opted to work well into her third trimester with Heroine
What if she had been getting movies even now? : Then the PR spin would be "Aishwarya is so 21st century, she has an amazing family support structure to look after the kid, she's looking like a yummy mummy,people still worship her etc etc"