While Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra’s big Hollywood debut films are to hit the screens one after the other in 2017, we take a look back at Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s film career in the West and what went wrong with it.
2017 will see two of Bollywood’s most successful exports, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra, make their Hollywood debuts. And what debuts they are!
On the one hand, Deepika Padukone is starring in the prominent, stylish role of Serena Unger in xXx: Return of Xander Cage, the third film in the blockbuster xXx franchise. On the other hand, is Priyanka Chopra, who is playing the primary antagonist Victoria Leeds in Baywatch, based on the hit television series of the same name. Where Deepika is starring opposite international superstar Vin Diesel, Priyanka is playing the baddie in a film which stars Diesel’s Fast and Furious co-star Dwayne Johnson.
In the months prior to the release of Return of Xander Cage, Deepika has been making headlines, mostly for her chemistry with Vin Diesel and how beautiful she looks in the film. Priyanka, on her part, has had tremendous global visibility ever since she began starring in the American TV series Quantico. On top of that, after being one of the 2016 Academy Awards hosts and appearing on Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers’s talk shows, Priyanka is now a big, big name internationally.
But where would Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone really be on the global map had there been no Aishwarya Rai Bachchan?
When Aishwarya Rai Bachchan became Miss World in 1994, the actor foresaw what she could achieve with her beauty, smarts, talent and personality. After getting a break in none other than Mani Ratnam’s ground-breaking political saga Iruvar, Aishwarya began rising in stature and fame, from film to film.
After scoring a big Bollywood hit with 1999’s Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Aishwarya starred in the critically acclaimed Taal followed by 2000’s Shah Rukh Khan-starrers Josh and Mohabbatein. Around that time, she was also involved in a romantic relationship with Salman Khan which, obviously, made headlines in its own right. Ash had reached the pinnacle of stardom in Bollywood, but what more could she do to expand and/or consolidate this stardom?
Well, whenever a new star gets too big for Bollywood, the tabloid media goes ga ga over his or her Hollywood potential.
As expected, after experimenting in ‘arthouse cinema’ with Rituparno Ghosh (Chokher Bali and Raincoat) and starring in films that did not do justice to her brains or beauty (Albela, Hum Kisise Kum Nahin) for three years, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan finally had her Hollywood debut with 2004’s Bride and Prejudice
What could wrong? Aishwarya was India’s darling and London-based Punjabi filmmaker Gurinder Chadha was fresh off the success of her 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham which had made $76.6 million from a $6 million budget. On paper, it was a masterstroke.
Except that Bride and Prejudice had a sloppy screenplay and it appealed to a certain section of NRIs in UK and US, more than the international community itself. Unlike Deepika and Priyanka’s debut vehicles which are completely Hollywood in style, feel and look through and through, Aishwarya’s feature film debut in the West was essentially a Bollywood film, made with Western actors, in the West. Consequently, the international community was not much flattered.
Aishwarya’s next few stints in the West were as follows:
2006’s The Mistress of Spices directed by Gurinder’s husband Paul Mayeda Berges. Critical and commercial flop.
2007’s Provoked directed by US-based Indian filmmaker Jag Mundhra. Mixed reviews. Commercial flop.
2007’s The Last Legion directed by Doug Lefler, starring Colin Farrell no less. Flop.
2009’s much-publicised The Pink Panther 2 starring Steve Martin, Jean Reno, Andy Garcia, among others. A flop.
Now, barring the last two films, Aishwarya never really got any serious attention from the West, as one can see. And Aishwarya wasn’t bad in any of these films. She was adequate and did her part in all her films, and particularly in Provoked, she was splendid. Then, what really went wrong?
Now with Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’s resounding success, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan can, perhaps, take a second stab as a top actor in Indian cinema. And maybe, even in Hollywood?