Aishwarya Rai turns 50: A peek into her life, controversies, movies and why she is still ruling hearts

The actor helped put India on the global map. Photo | Still from Devdas (Imdb)

Aishwarya Rai is celebrating her 50th birthday today. The model-turned actor who can be credited for putting India on the global beauty map, has proved her detractors wrong with her acting chops and amazing dance moves.
From being an advocate of her Indian roots to her proven record as an actor, Rai continues to be a sensation to people the world over. On her special day, we take a look at some of her best movies, the controversies that surrounded her and why she is considered a global icon.

Her movies
Rai, who won the Miss World pageant in 1994, stepped into the cine world with her debut movie 'Iruvar' in 1997. It was a critically acclaimed film. Many who watched her play a dual role as Kalpanavalli and Pushpa in the film were taken aback by her acting skills and beauty. The film paved the way for a string of commercially successful movies.
Though 'Jeans', her second Tamil film, gave her career an extra boost, it was Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam' that defined the actor in her. Even today, it is considered one of Rai's best films. (Another Bhansali movie, the blockbuster 'Devdas', left an indelible mark on the audiences for her beauty and charm as Paro).

Aishwarya Rai in Jodhaa Akbar. Photo | Imdb

Though her career saw a period of lows, Rai bounced back delivering memorable performances in films like 'Raincoat' where she played Neerja, a broken, ex-lover who meets her boyfriend after a long time and 'Bride and Prejudice', where she played the feisty Lalitha. Her portrayal of Sophia D'Souza, a home nurse taking care of a quadriplegic man in 'Guzaarish' was extraordinary, as was her performance as Jodhaa Bai in 'Jodhaa Akbar'. 

Though she did fewer films at the turn of the decade, she made a powerful comeback with Mani Ratnam's two-part epic movie 'Ponniyin Selvan’. 

The controversies
Despite her stupendous success, controversies plagued her career. Though Rai and Salman Khan's love story in 'Hum Dile De Chuke Sanam' was poignant and beautiful, their off-screen relationship was far from calm.

Aishwarya Rai in Dhoom 2. Photo | Imdb

The two had a tumultuous relationship. She would later admit that she was physically and mentally abused constantly by the actor. Though there is no official confirmation, there were speculations she was removed from big films due to Khan's influence in the industry. She had also said that she was dropped from several movies without explanation.

After her breakup with Khna, she was in a relationship with Vivek Oberoi, then an up-and-coming actor. But that too came to an abrupt end. There were rumours that Vivek was threatened by Khan, who was completely unhappy about his ex's new boyfriend. Vivek, son of senior actor Suresh Oberoi, did not remain quiet about it and started holding press conferences about Khan's threats.

Some interesting facts about the actor
Did you know that Aishwarya Rai was approached to play the role of Tina in Karan Johar's film 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai'? However, she refused the offer because she felt people would judge her for accepting glamorous roles again. She also famously rejected the role of Briseis offered to her in the Brad Pitt-starrer 'Troy' as it required her to do some ‘uncomfortable’ scenes.

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