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Aishwarya Rai Bachchan birthday: 5 performances that prove she is still the Queen of Hearts

As Aishwarya Rai Bachchan turns 44 today (1 November), we take a look at film roles that prove that the former Miss World has enough acting talent that deserves to be envied as well.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Shriram Iyengar

Actress Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has become a name synonymous with Indian beauty on the global stage. Before Priyanka Chopra lit up Hollywood with her presence, it was Aishwarya who became India's most famous face in world cinema. But it would be unjust to say that she is just beautiful.

With a filmography that boasts of films with Mani Ratnam, Yash Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Subhash Ghai and Karan Johar, she has proven her talent with a score of iconic films that have become watershed moments in Indian cinema.

Since winning the Miss World title in 1994, the actress has gone on to become one of Indian cinema's most celebrated names on the world stage. Her marriage into cinema royalty, the Bachchan family, ensured that her regal status remains peerless. However, it is her acting that deserves much more praise. While the world and the next galaxy is familiar with her performances in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999), Devdas (2002), Guru (2007) and Jodhaa Akbar (2008), the reservoir of her performances run deeper.

We take a look at five wonderful performances that underline Aishwarya's versatility and calibre.

1. Iruvar (1997)

Her first film was the masterclass by Mani Ratnam, Iruvar. Reportedly based on the relationship between the two powerful chief ministers of Tamil Nadu, M Karunanidhi and MGR, the film weaved cinema, politics, oratory skills and socialism into a wonderful story. Aishwarya was cast in the twin role as the muse of Mohanlal's character Anandan, a reported take on the rise of the late J Jayalalithaa. Sharing screen with legendary talents like Mohanlal and Prakash Raj, the young actress delivered a credible performance that belied her reputation as a beauty contest winner. It was the rise of a new star in Indian cinema.

2. Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000)

Rajiv Menon's beautiful visual celebration had Aishwarya at the centre. The film, based on Jane Austen's famous Pride and Prejudice, had the actress playing the Tamil equivalent of Elizabeth Bennet. Spunky, independent, and absolutely ethereal, the actress delivered a performance that stood out in a cast that also had Mammooty, Tabu and Ajith Kumar.

3. Chokher Bali (2003)

In the post Devdas (2002) scenario, it would have been easier for the actress to have taken up more commercial projects and setting for a title as the reigning queen of Hindi cinema. However, her penchant for expanding her acting horizons led her to Rituparno Ghosh. While the director's adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore's famous novella was panned, the actress stood out with her performance as Binodini. As the woman unabashed in her expression of desire, independent of societal rules, and constantly seeking to break out of her shackles, Aishwarya was restrained, pitch perfect and in control.

4. Khakee (2004)

While she had already made her mark in independent cinema, the actress never ignored the prospect of the comic and commercial cinema either. In a film that was as commercial as it came, Rajkumar Santoshi's thrilling cop drama had the actress play the red herring with an understated touch of comedy and innocence. While the film went on to win four Filmfare nominations, the actress certainly showed her critics a new dimension with her performance.

5. Raincoat (2004)

The second Rituparno Ghosh project that the actress was part of was Raincoat. The film, which also starred her Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam co-star, Ajay Devgn, was a wonderful, sentimental story about two past lovers who meet again in unfortunate circumstances. Though the film failed commercially, it won critical acclaim. The actress even won a nomination at the Filmfare awards for her wonderfully understated performance in the film.