Ashwariya Rai Bachan’s Career on a Cliffhanger
Syed Ali Mujtaba
The wait for Ashwariya Rai Bachchan’s fans is coming to an end with two of her movies Raavan and Endhiran (the robot) are set for release in few weeks from now. The ex beauty queen is pinning hopes on both these south Indian movies and its success may turn around her career that’s witnessing a free fall.
The career span of Bolloywood heroines mostly last for about a decade. We have seen this with Hema Malani, giving way to Sridevi, who passed the baton to Madhuri Dixit that went to Ashwariya Rai and now appears to be slipping on the lap of Katrina Kaif.
With the release of the two movies viewers are anxiously watching whether the former miss world may rewrite a new chapter in the history of Indian cinema and gain the numero uno position in the Bollywood or she will follow the customary rule of the female leads saying adieu to tinsel world, once she has decides to tie the nuptial knot.
This is because Indian audiences traditionally do not accept a heroine who is officially not single. This has happened in the past and many heartthrobs had voluntarily left the silver screen, others were forced to do the domestic chorus as their ratings have plummeted at the box office due to matrimonial reasons.
However, whether these parameters may apply to Ashwariya as well, that’s something being keenly watched. The release of ‘Raavan’ and ‘Endhiran’ are touted to be her litmus test and whether they are going to resurrect her career will be known from just a while from now.
The first movie that’s due for release is 'Raavan'. Made by seasoned director Mani Ratnam and musical scores composed by A.R Rahman is completing its the post production work and due for release. The audio release of this film has already taken place recently in Chennai.
'Ravan' is a multilingual film made in Hindi, Tamil, Telegue and Malayalam. This movie is supposedly a modern day adaptation of Ramayan, and is an intense love story focused on the Ram-Sita pair. In Tamil Ashwariya is cast opposite Vikram and in Hindi hubby Abhishek Bachchan is the hero.
The storyline runs on expected lines. Abhishek Bachchan’s sister dies due to Vikram’s recklessness and so he kidnaps Vikram’s wife Aishwarya. Vikram goes on to save Aishwarya.
Well that’s the Tamil version of the story which is also going to be dubbed in Telugu. In Hindi Abhishek and Vikram swap their characters. The sister’s role is played by Priyamani. In Malayalam, Prithviraj plays the hero.
Mani Ratnam has shot at least four climaxes for the movie. In first, Ravana wins the heart of Sita! Second, Sita reaches Ram fighting Ravana, third, death of Rama and fourth, the death of Ravan. The climax is full of suspense and no one knows which one is been finalized by the director.
Ashwariya made her movie debut in Mani Ratnam's Tamil film ‘Iruvar’ in 1997. She has also appeared in his Hindi movie ‘Guru’ in 2007 with Abhishek Bachchan as the hero. Now when her acting career is on a tailspin, she is also waiting for Mani Ratnam’s magic to cast its spell on the audiences. Whether, the success of 'Ravan' would breathe a new life into Ashwariya’s career is remain to be seen.
It appears that Ashwariya’s career is coming to a full circle. She had her first commercial success with the Tamil movie ‘Jeans’ in 1998 directed by S. Shankar, another big director of Tamil cinema and her next major release is ‘Endhiran’ and that’s directed by S. Shankar.
The director is known for making mega budget movies and ‘Endhiran’ is made with an estimated over 150 crores, the highest ever budget for a Tamil film. ‘Endhiran’ which literally means ‘robot’ is a science-fiction film. It has generated a lot of curiosity not only for big budget and Ashwariya’s stint with the Tamil language but also for other reasons.
Ashwariya is cast opposite superstar Rajnikant, the superstar of Tamil Cinema. Any movie that features Rajnikant is bound to be a super hit. In this movie, hero Rajnikant teaches Karate to Ashwariya who would be seen doing martial arts and bashing off many negative characters.
Ashwariya has reportedly signed this movie for 6 crores rupees, making her the highest paid actress in India. The other highlights of the movie are two exceptionally picturesque songs. One is shot at the historic site of the Machu Picchu in Peru with other scenes being picturized in the United States and Brazil.
The other song is shot with about 1000 artists dancing along with Rajnikant and Ashwariya that’s shot at a gigantic set created at Ramojirao Film City Hyderabad at an estimated cost of Rs.3 crore rupees.
The movie ran into controversy for its English title ‘robot’ and its name was changed into Tamil because of the Tamil Nadu government’s policy to give tax exemption to films only with Tamil titles.
‘Endhiran’ is a bi lingual film, simultaneously made in Tamil and Hindi. Its musical score is also done by AR Rahman. The post production work this movie is near completion and only an auspicious date is being searched for its release.
Ashwariya is pinning lot of hopes on director S. Shankar’s directorial wizardry. With Rajnikanth as the lead, it’s expected that ‘Endhiran’ is sure to be a mega hit. However, whether this movie may turn out to be another ‘Jeans’ for Ashwariya, that remains to be seen?
During her career, spanning over a decade Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has acted in over forty movies in Hindi, English, Tamil and Bengali.
She made her Bollywood debut in, ‘Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya’ opposite Bobby Deol, but came to attract attention in the movie ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam,’ staring Ajay Devgan and Salman Khan. Her performance in the film won her the Filmfare Best Actress Award
Her movie ‘ Taal ’ was a big musical success. She won her second Filmfare Best Actress Award for ‘Devdas’ in 2002.
After a low phase in her career during 2003–2005, she appeared in the blockbuster ‘Dhoom 2’ in 2006, which turned out to be her biggest Bollywood commercial success. She appeared in films like ‘Guru’ in 2007 and ‘Jodhaa Akbar’ 2008, which were commercially successful.
Ashwariya has acted in the international productions ‘Bride & Prejudice’ (2004), ‘The Mistress of Spices’ (2005), ‘The Last Legion’ (2007) and ‘The Pink Panther 2’ (2009) in English.
The miss world 1994 has been the most popular face of Indian cinema globally. In 2004 she was chosen by Time magazine as one of the World's "100 Most Influential People", and appeared on the cover of Time magazine, Asia Edition. In October 2004 a wax figure of Ashwariya was put on display in London’s Madame Tussaud's wax museum, the only Bollywood heroine to get this honor.
Even though Ashwariya will be seen in movies like Sanjay Leela Bhansali's ‘Guzaarish’, Vipul Shah's ‘Action Replay’, Abhinay Deo's next film produced by Farhan Akhtar and Vishal Bharadwaj's next directorial venture, the success or failure of ‘Raavan’ and ‘Endhiran’ is going to set the tone of her future career that’s right now on a cliffhanger.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@ yahoo.com