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Six sizzling dance tracks of Aishwarya Rai Bachchan – Birthday special

From the riveting 'Nimbooda' to the sensuous 'Kajre Re', we revisit some fine dance numbers featuring the ethereal beauty.

Mayur Lookhar

Each era of Indian cinema has been blessed with some divine beauties. First, there was Madhubala. Then came Hema Malini. Rekha, Parveen Babi and Zeenat Aman turned the heat on in the 1970s. The 1980s saw Sridevi, and she was followed by Madhuri Dixit as India's darling.

In the late 1990s, a girl from Mangalore cast a spell on the nation. With her green eyes, a face that seemed to have been carved by god himself, and beauty that simply took your breath away, Aishwarya Rai first conquered the world of glamour, winning the Miss World crown in 1993. From that moment on, the world of cinema began wooing her.

Rai eventually gave in and joined the film industry, making her debut with Mani Ratnam’s acclaimed Tamil drama Iruvar (1997). The same year, she made her debut in Hindi cinema with Rahul Rawail’s ...Aur Pyar Ho Gaya. Soon she found top filmmakers making a beeline to her front door.

Two decades later, Aishwarya Rai, now married to actor Abhishek Bachchan and mother to daughter Aaradhya, looks as gorgeous as ever. But as an actress, she has still not been able to shake off her critics.

While Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, as she is known now, has given a few memorable performances on screen, her beauty has, perhaps, always trumped her other talents.

Rai Bachchan was never a naturally gifted dancer like Madhuri Dixit, but she has to her credit her share of popular dance tracks. As the actress turns 45 today (she was born on 1 November 1973), let us revisit six of her sizzling dance numbers.

'Nimbooda' — Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)

Ideally, a divine beauty like Aishwarya Rai should have blazed the screen. While she came as a breath of fresh air in her early films, it wasn’t until Hum Dil Chuke Sanam that she and her beauty truly exploded on screen. And who else but the master Sanjay Leela Bhansali to tap into her beauty and bring out the actress in her?

Music forms the backbone of a Bhansali film, and the filmmaker-composer scored some memorable songs. But the one that took your breath away was 'Nimbooda'. Dressed literally in the colours of a peacock, Rai entered the frame dancing like one. That single peacock-like move made a jaw-dropping impact on viewers.

Choreographer Saroj Khan literally gave Rai the wings to fly. Magnificence is a word that springs to mind every time you watch this joyful number. Khan has shaped the careers of many with her choreography. Her style, while contemporary, has always been laced with a classical or folksy touch.

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan wavered at some moments during this number, but the sheer magnificence of her beauty left you spellbound. She was magical, however, and performed the breathtaking steps with ease.

Saroj Khan bagged the Filmfare Best Choreographer award while Aishwarya Rai snapped up her maiden Best Actress award. A word of appreciation is also in order for singer Kavita Krishnamurthy.

'Dola Re' — Devdas (2002) 

Subhash Ghai’s Taal (1999) had great music and Aishwarya Rai looked like a million bucks, but that movie didn’t see Rai dance to its music.

The former beauty queen reunited with director Sanjay Leela Bhansali for the magnum opus Devdas (2002). There was a bigger incentive for Rai as she got to share the dance floor with no less than Madhuri Dixit herself. Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai, Saroj Khan could boast of having mentored three of the gorgeous women ever to grace Indian cinema.

Bhansali’s version of Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s Devdas was bound to be mounted on a lavish scale. For fans though, seeing two divine beauties together on screen was a memory for a lifetime.

Costumes, grand sets, jewellery, Bhansali brought his usual opulence to bear on the dance number, but it really was the mesmerizing choreography by Saroj Khan that blew your mind.

The hook step was an altogether new visual experience, but Rai and Dixit shone more with the classical moves. This was like two goddesses at the height of their powers.

Saroj Khan bagged the Filmfare and the National award for Best Choreography that year. Rai took away fond memories of dancing with Dixit.

'Ishq Kameena' — Shakti: The Power (2002)

The term 'item girl' was not one associated with Aishwarya Rai, but to stay ahead of the pack, even top actresses were no longer shying away from going the Helen way.

Rai had just this special dance appearance in the film Shakti: The Power. There was no opulence in the number. Rai, however, still looked splendid and sexy as the village belle, a Koliwada hottie.

The Tulu beauty had never been in a raunchy number before. But throwing 'class' to the winds, Rai shed all her inhibitions and swivelled to the earthy beats. Farah Khan truly brought the naughty, erotic girl in Rai out.

'Kajra Re' — Bunty Aur Babli (2005)

Having done an item number before ['Ishq Kameena'], Rai produced what many would consider one of the finest song-and-dance items of all time. The 'Kajra Re' track would appeal to both the masses as well as the classes. It was inspired by a folk song from the Braj region. 

 It was sensuous, yet classy. Vaibhavi Merchant was the architect of this masterpiece. There were no flamboyant dance steps, but Merchant crafted such sensual desi dance moves that your eyes were left riveted.

Apart from Aishwarya Rai's beauty, the magic of 'Kajra Re' lies in her charming expressions. The music gives you a sense of a mujra track, with subtle hint of Qawwali, tinged with Western fusion. but the choreography is not really that you associate with mujra style.  From the dancing to expressions, Rai has simply put up a perfect show.  And Amitabh and Abhishek Bachchan, though silly in their antic, were fun to watch. Of course, this experience is impossible without the sensuous tone of the singer Alisha Chinai

'Crazy Kiya Re' — Dhoom 2 (2006)

The success of Dhoom (2004) drove producer Aditya Chopra to turn it into a franchise, Hindi cinema's first. Two years later, the franchise got bigger as stars Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan joined it. A maiden film together for two of the most gorgeous beings on the planet. Dhoom 2 had some fine tracks, but the one that hit your senses was 'Crazy Kiya Re'.

Pritam produced a fine fusion of desi and Western, with Sunidhi Chauhan giving one of her best performances. For the fans though, it was a visual treat that Rai put on.

'Sexy lady on the floor, keeps you coming back for more...'. The intro was so apt, for you just could not get enough of Rai. The Mangalorean beauty had never looked so hot before. More than the skimpy clothes and smoky look, it was Shiamak Davar’s choreography that made her explode on screen. Aishwarya Rai and her dancers cast a spell on you with their steady but rhythmic moves.

'Barso Re' — Guru (2007)

There are times when one has to just abandon the quest for perfection and go with the flow. As children, we just ran, played, and danced with gay abandon in the first monsoon showers. Saroj Khan let Aishwarya Rai Bachchan get drenched and lose herself in the joy of the rains, amid breathtaking locales.

A country setting, dark skies, plenty of rain, flushing waterfalls, the visuals had an aroma to them. Aishwarya Rai even got atop a river boulder in a move akin to the god Shiva performing his Tandav on an icy peak.

Aishwarya Rai's frantic, carefree dancing and AR Rahman’s rollicking music made 'Barso Re' a memorable rain track.