Birthday Special: The many firsts of Aishwarya's life
There are many a glorious firsts in Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's life.
She is the first Indian actress to be on the Cannes Jury, first actress to endorse both Pepsi and Coca Cola, first choice to play the leading lady in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Dostana and Chalte Chalte, first Bollywood celebrity to find a mention in Rolling Stones magazine.
Besides her numerous accomplishments, Ash, with her luminous eyes and exquisite features is also one of the most gorgeous faces to adorn Indian cinema. From having tulips named after her to being hailed as the Most Beautiful Woman in the World by Pretty Woman Julia Roberts herself, Ash has constantly aimed for excellence in both her personal and professional endeavors.
Be it as Nandini (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam), Mansi (Taal), Paro (Devdas), Binodini (Chokher Bali), Neerja (Raincoat), Jodhaa (Jodhaa Akbar), Sophia (Guzaarish) or Sunheri (Dhoom 2) or responsible celebrity icon, affectionate child, loving wife, gracious daughter-in-law and a hands-on, doting mom to daughter Aaradhya, Ash plays every role on and off screen with heart and dedication.
The stunning, eloquent, graceful and one of Bollywood's most popular actresses turns 39 today. Here's looking at some of the firsts through her eventful, triumphant journey.
First claim to fame: Pepsi
It was Aishwarya's smoldering avatar as Sanjana, Aamir Khan's hot new neighbor inquiring; 'Got another Pepsi?' that gave us a first glimpse of a future superstar. The Lehar Pepsi ad, also featuring Mahima Chaudhary, was based on the same brand's international version featuring Michael J Fox.
Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Pepsi advertisement
First beauty crown: Femina Miss India Runner Up
Although a hot favourite to win the beauty pageant, Ash lost the crown to Sushmita Sen and came second place at the Femina Miss India contest 1994. She went on to participate in the Miss World competition and bag the 'Most Beautiful Woman in the World' title with her most celebrated victory.
While the studded tiara is no longer with her, Ash continues to be hailed as a world-class beauty.
Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan on the cover of Femina (1994)
First film: Iruvar
Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Iruvar
First Bollywood film: Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya
Image: Bobby Deol and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya
First hit: Jeans
Success came to Ash with Tamil whizkid Shankar's Jeans. The comedy of confusion was shot extensively in USA and other seven wonders of the world all through Europe, China, Egypt and India for grandly picturised A R Rahman ditties like Hai Rabba and Ajooba.
Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Jeans
First cosmetic endorsement: Lakme
Long before she proved her worth as the longstanding champion of the L'Oreal range, a ravishing Ash endorse Lakme's line of cosmetics through glamorous print and television ads.
Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Lakme ad
First Cannes appearance: At the Devdas screening
A regular at Cannes for the past 11 years for an Out-of-Competition screening of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas with co-star Shah Rukh Khan. The actress played the role of Dev's childhood soulmate Paro in the opulently staged retelling of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's literary classic.
Since then, Ash has gone on to be the first Indian to be part of the Cannes jury and dazzle the red carpet as L'Oreal ambassador with her designer gowns and trendy make-up.
Image: Shah Rukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
First International Project: Bride and Prejudice
Though her international career never took off the way it promised to, Ash started out playing a desi Elizabeth Bennet in British filmmaker Gurinder Chadha's Bride and Prejudice to Martin Henderson's Darcy.
She then went on to try her luck in other exotic fares like The Mistress of Spices, The Last Legion and her most high-profile Hollywood film to date, The Pink Panther 2 featuring the likes of Steve Martin, Jean Reno, Alfred Molina, Andy Garcia, John Cleese and Emily Mortimer.
Image: Martin Henderson and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Bride and Prejudice
First international TV interview: CBS' 60 Minutes
Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Photographs: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images
First special appearance: Ravoyi Chandamama
Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Ravoyi Chandamama
First item song: Ishq Kamina
The usually coy star reveals her aggressively seductive side against the raunchy beats of Ishq kamina where she burns the screen with Shah Rukh Khan to provide some rare relief in Karisma Kapoor's heavily emotional and intense action drama, Shakti: The Power.
Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Shakti
First negative role: Khakee
'Yeh neeli aankhen marvake rahengi,' remarks Akshay Kumar about the object of his affection in Rajkumar Santoshi's cop drama. No one quite suspects the vixen Ash is about to transform into providing Khakee with its most wonderful 'kahani mein twist.'
Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Khakee
First on screen kiss: Dhoom 2
While filmmakers employed tricky camera angles to create a masterful illusion of a kiss between Ash-Akshaye Khanna in Taal and Ash-Vivek Oberoi in Kyun Ho Gaya Na, there's no technology (except undeniable chemistry) involved to generate the purely carnal lip-lock shared by the stunner and Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom 2. The kiss caused a lot of hue and cry among self-proclaimed moral police.
Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan in Dhoom 2
First humanitarian gesture: Eye donation
Her blue-green eyes are often the focus of a million compliments. And it was one of her earliest and most memorable gestures when she decided to donate them to the Eye Bank Association of India.
Her in-laws Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan are also part of this charitable cause.
Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
First Filmfare Trophy: Best Actress
Although she lost on the Newcomer trophy to Mahima Chaudhary in Subhash Ghai's Pardes, Ash won her first award as Best Actress for her striking portrayal of the passionate Nandini in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam starring Ajay Devgn and Salman Khan.
Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
First public relationship: Salman Khan
Ever since she came in public eye, Ash has been linked with nearly all her co-stars but the actress admitted to her relationship and an ugly spit with her HDDCS co-star Salman Khan in a public statement after she was dragged in a verbal spat involving him and Vivek Oberoi.
The actress was rumoured to date Oberoi, a claim she neither denied nor confirmed before she went on to find permanent bliss in Abhishek Bachchan whom she wed on April 20, 2007.
Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Salman Khan in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
First film opposite hubby: Abhishek Bachchan
The duo met for the first time in 1997 somewhere in Switzerland when Ash was filming Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya while Abhishek Bachchan was location hunting for his home production, Mrityudaata starring dad Amitabh.
When Bachchan Jr took to acting, he was eventually paired up opposite Ash in the tedious romance, Dhaai Akshar Prem Ke (2000).
Although they developed feelings for each other much later leading to a grand engagement and wedding extensively covered by the Indian media, Abhishek-Ash went on to work in films like Kuch Naa Kaho, Bunty Aur Babli, Umrao Jaan, Dhoom 2, Guru, Sarkar Raj and Raavan.
Image: Abhishek Bachchan and Aishwariya Rai Bachchan in Dhaai Akshar Prem Ke
First Madame Tussauds statue: October 2004
In the fall of 2004, Ash received the prestigious honour of being the second Bollywood star (after Amitabh Bachchan) to have her wax replica at London's legendary Madame Tussauds wax museum.A second statue was unveiled at Madame Tussauds, Blackpool in October 2011.
Image: Aishwariya Rai Bachchan with her wax statue at Madame Tussauds
First child: Aaradhya
Just like her marriage into the Bachchan khandaan, her pregnancy and baby have been a constant subject of excitement within the media.
The actress turned a proud mom on November 16, 2011 with the birth of Ash and Abhishek's daughter, Aaradhya. Barely a few weeks away from her first birthday, Beti B is already considered a certified celebrity.
Image: Aishwarya Rai Bachchan with daughter Aaradhya
Photographs: Pradeep Bandekar