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Aishwarya Rai Biography

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Birth Name: Aishwarya Rai
Born: 11/01/1973
Birth Place: Mangalore, Karnataka, IN

Born Nov. 1, 1973 in the Karnatka port city of Mangalore, India, Aishwarya Rai was the youngest of two children by Krishnaraj Rai, a marine biologist, and his wife, Brindya. A stellar student, she initially considered a career in medicine before settling on architecture. However, she had dabbled in modeling while in high school, and took it up again to pay for her college education at Raheja College. A commercial for Pepsi Cola, filmed during an outbreak of riots in Mumbai, instantly boosted her profile, and she was soon gracing magazines like Vogue and advertisements for Longines watches, Coca-Cola, and De Beers diamonds. In 1994, she took part in the Miss India competition, where she claimed second place, before capturing the Miss World title that same year. Rai soon gave up her studies and relocated to London to continue her modeling career.

Three years later, she made her feature film debut in "Iruvar" (1997), a political thriller based on real-life actor turned Prime Minister M.G. Ramachandran. Rai played two roles - a village girl loved by the film's Ramachandran figure, and an aggressive actress who began an affair with him. The film, produced by the South Indian-based Tamil film industry, was a sizable and controversial hit - Ramachandran was considered semi-divine after his death in 1987 - and led to Rai's Bollywood debut in the romantic drama " Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya" (1997), featuring popular leading man Bobby Deol. Though not a box office success, it further rebranded Rai as an actress and earned her a Most Promising Newcomer from the Star Screen Awards. The following year, Rai returned to the Tamil industry for the musical romance "Jeans" (1998). A comedy-drama of errors surrounding a pair of Stateside twin brothers (Prashanth Thyagarajan) who enlist Rai in a scheme to please their father by marrying twins, the film was shot at numerous locations around the world, including Los Angeles, the Grand Canyon, New York City and Paris in order to accommodate a musical number in which Rai is compared to the seven wonders of the world. As a result, "Jeans" was among the most expensive Indian films ever produced, and became India's submission for Best Foreign Film for the 1998 Academy Awards.

The exposure afforded by "Jeans" gave Rai's career the boost it needed, and she surprised many by steering away from glossy roles built around her looks in favor of more dramatic parts. She began earning numerous awards and her first bona fide box office hit with "Hun Dil De Chuke Sanam" (1999), a melancholy romance about arranged marriage, with Rai playing a lovelorn wife whose husband helped her find her first and true love. That same year, she received even stronger reviews as a humble pop star whose relationship with a wealthy young man was damaged by familial and class conflicts in "Taal" (1999). A major hit with non-resident Indian viewers, it became the first Indian film to reach the top 20 on Variety's box office list. Both films began a lengthy string of critical and commercial hits for Rai, which culminated with 2002's "Devdas." A melodrama based on a classic Indian novel, the period piece starred movie idol Shahrukh Khan and Rai as lovers torn apart by his mother's rejection of their relationship. One of the most expensive Bollywood film ever produced, "Devdas" swept the Indian awards, reaping Filmfare and Star Screen awards for Rai, and made international headlines for a special screening at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, which eventually led to its submission as Best Foreign Film at the 1999 Oscars.

The gathering momentum behind Rai's career exploded after the release of "Devdas." She was soon a highly visible presence around the globe, joining L'Oreal's "Dream Team" of global brand ambassadors alongside such international beauties as Catherine Denueve, Penelope Cruz and Andie Macdowall in 2003. That same year, Rai also became the first Indian actor to become a member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival. Her face was featured on magazine covers and layouts, including TIME magazine, which listed her among its "100 Most Influential People in the World" column in 2004, as well as GQ, the New York Times, and countless others. The UK's Hello magazine named her the most attractive woman in the world that same year, a label that would follow Rai for years to come.

Rai's film career stood in sharp contrast to the overwhelming media attention that followed her during 2003 and 2004. A string of high-profile dramas failed to attract audiences, and her English-language debut in "Bride and Prejudice" (2004), Gurinder Chadha's Bollywood take on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," was met with middling reviews and box office returns. A brief reprieve came in the form of the police thriller "Khakee" (2004), with Rai playing a witness to a violent terrorist organization's crimes. It became the fifth highest-grossing Indian film of the year, but was soon followed by more disappointments, including her second English-language film, "The Mistress of Spices" (2005), with Rai as a mystical shopkeeper and Dylan McDermott as the American who loves her. A remake of "Umrao Jaan" (2006), with Rai as a famed courtesan, drew negative comparisons to the 1981 original, starring beloved Bollywood actress Rekha, who met Rai as a teenager and complimented her on her looks.

Rai bounced back in a blockbuster way with "Dhoom 2" (2006), the second film in an incredibly popular series of Hollywood style action movies. Rai was the film's supporting villainess, a master thief who aided the series' chief bad guy, Mr. A, before succumbing to the charms of detective Jai (Abhishek Bachchan). The expensive thriller became the one of the highest-grossing Bollywood films in both its native country and abroad, and re-established Rai's star status, despite a storm of controversy over a kissing scene between her and Hrithik Roshan, who played Mr. A. The following year, Bachchan and Rai, who had been frequent co-stars since 1997, announced their engagement, which ignited a media frenzy over the newly-minted super couple. Their wedding took place in a private ceremony at Bachchan's residence on April 20, 2007.

As Rai's film career continued to rally, her popularity continued to expand into international markets. She had already been feted with such unique and varied tributes as a tulip named in her honor in the Netherlands, a wax figure at Madame Tussaud's in London, and even a best-selling line of Barbie dolls made in her likeness. Near-constant coverage in magazines led to a high-profile piece on "60 Minutes" (CBS, 1968- ) and appearances on American talk shows like "Late Night with David Letterman" (CBS, 1993- ) and "The Oprah Winfrey Show" (syndicated, 1986-2011). And she continued to collect superlatives, including a place on People magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People in the World list in 2006.

In 2007, she co-starred with her husband in "Guru," a popular rags-to-riches story about a small-town villlager (Bachchan) who rose to the top through ambition and occasional ruthlessness. Rai played Bachchan's wife in a largely ornamental role that nevertheless earned her a Filmfare Award nomination. That same year, she made another stab at English-language stardom, first with the British film "Provoked" (2007) and later in "The Last Legion" (2007), a period adventure film produced by Dino De Laurentiis. The former was based on the real-life case of an Indian woman who murdered her husband (Naveen Andrews) in self-defense after suffering a decade of abuse at his hands, while the latter starred Colin Firth as a Roman soldier fighting barbarians in ancient Britain alongside Rai's Indian warrior. Neither film fared well with critics or at the box office, and a proposed remake of Coline Serreau's "Chaos" (2001) that would have teamed Rai with Meryl Streep never came to fruition.

Rai returned to Bollywood for the historical epic "Jodhaa Akbar" (2008), with Hrithik Roshan as the 13th century Muslim emperor who conquered much of South Asia but struggled to win the affections of his fiery wife (Rai). A slow-building hit across the world, it garnered respectful reviews in both the West and Far East, as well as a Star Screen Award for Rai. However, "The Pink Panther 2" (2009), with Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau and Rai as an Indian security expert with romantic ties to a mysterious French thief (Johnny Hallyday), failed to recapture the surprise success of its 2006 predecessor. In 2010, she collaborated with director Mani Ratnam for a thriller that would be shot simultaneously in two languages, with Rai playing the same role opposite two different actors in the respective films. The Hindi version, "Raavan" (2010), with her husband as a bandit seeking revenge against a corrupt police official by kidnapping his wife (Rai), was a commercial failure, while the Tamil version, "Ravaanan," with Vikram in the lead, was a box office and festival hit, especially at the 67th Venice Film Festival, where it earned Ratnam the Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to the Filmmaker Award.

Rai closed out 2010 with a flurry of popular features, including the science fiction thriller "Enthiran," with Raijinkanth in dual roles as a scientist and the robot he creates in his likeness who falls in love with his fiancée (Rai). A decade of pre-production work and a two-year shooting schedule, as well as location filming in Brazil and the United States and extensive special effects, resulted in the most expensive Indian film ever made, as well as one of the most profitable ever released. She followed this with a more modest drama, "Guzaarish" (2010), with Hrithik Roshan as a quadriplegic who sought to end his suffering through euthanasia, and Rai as his faithful nurse. Though only modest in terms of box office returns, the film swept the various awards ceremonies, and netted Rai her ninth Filmfare Award nomination. She soon began work on her next film projects, which included the romantic comedy "Ladies and Gentlemen" (2011) with Bachchan, and "Heroine" (2012), a drama about an actress in career decline.

The period was also marked by some of Rai's greatest career honors, including the 2009 Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award in India, for her contributions to the country's film industry. She also received France's second highest honor, the Order of Arts and Letters, that same year, but was forced to refuse the award due to her father's illness. The following year, India's Reliance Broadcast Network presented her with the Actress of the Decade award at the BIG Star Entertainment Awards, while the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) gave her the "Decade of Global Achievement Award." However, these and other tributes were superseded by the 2011 news that Rai and Bachchan were expecting their first child.