WCW: Aishwarya Rai

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Aishwarya Rai Bachchan is one of the most popular actresses of India. She is, as is often noted, stunningly beautiful. She’s also done a number of period films and some Western cinema, and I always find her acting to be engaging. Let’s run down Aishwarya Rai’s frock flick filmography!

23 March 1931 – Shaheed (2002)

Set in 1931 (obviously) British India, this film depicts the lead up to the hanging of Indian freedom fighter Bhagat Singh. Rai Bachchan plays “Mannewali (special appearance in song ‘Jogiya Ve’)”, which makes me think maybe she’s only in this one song?

2002 23 March 1931 - Shaheed

That’s a lovely textile!

Devdas (2002)

Set in the early 1900s and based on a 1917 novel, this film tells the story of a wealthy lawyer who plans to marry his childhood sweetheart (Rai), but things go wrong. Whenever I post about Rai on social media, everyone chimes in that this film is GREAT, so I think I need to watch it soon!

2002 Devdas

*grabby hands*

2002 Devdas

She wears clothes SO well.

2002 Devdas

I really need to read up on the historical development of the sari!

Chokher Bali (2003)

Based on a 1903 novel, two best friends (Rai and Raima Sen) become involved with the same man.

2003 Chokher Bali

Young and innocent!

2003 Chokher Bali

Tortured, I’m guessing.

Bride and Prejudice (2004)

Is it historical? Not a bit. Is it Kendra’s favorite adaptation of Pride and Prejudice? You bet! I put this on any time I need to be cheered up. Rai plays the perfect modern interpretation of Elizabeth Bennet, Martin Henderson is cute, and I looooove their Mr. Collins aka Kohli Saab.

2004 Bride and Prejudice
2004 Bride and Prejudice

No life without wife!

2004 Bride and Prejudice 2004 Bride and Prejudice

Umrao Jaan (2006)

Based on an 1899 novel (seeing a theme here?), the film begins in 1840 and tells the story of a courtesan and poet (played by Rai).

2006 Umrao Jaan

GAH this is so beautiful. Love the pale blues against the darker blue background.

2006 Umrao Jaan

You just can’t beat Indian jewelry!

2006 Umrao Jaan

STUNNING

Guru (2007)

This film, about an Indian industrialist, begins in 1950 and ends in 1980. Rai plays the industrialist’s wife.

2007 Guru

Guessing these are the older years?

2007 Guru

The Last Legion (2007)

A “historical action adventure film” that is LOOSELY inspired by the 5th century collapse of the Roman Empire and Arthurian legend. Colin Firth stars! It looks atrocious! Rai plays Mira, warrior of the Eastern Roman Empire.

2007 The Last Legion

Roman armor people, have at it.

2007 The Last Legion

See? Colin Firth!

2007 The Last Legion

A clearer shot of that ensemble. That leather underbust corset seems highly ineffective.

Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

As the real-life 16th century Jodhaa Bai, who married the Mughal emperor.

Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

The costumes in this are STUNNING.

Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

With regional/cultural/religious differences showing in the costumes.

Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

SO much bling you’ll go blind!

Jodhaa Akbar (2008)

Action Replayy (2010)

Technically after our period, but these pics of Rai are too cute! It’s basically Back to the Future but instead of going back to the 1950s, the lead goes back to 1975.

2010 Action Replayy
2010 Action Replayy

This is SO CUTE on her!

And coming soon…

Rai will be in Ponniyin Selvan, about Chola Emperor Rajaraja I (c. 985-1014).

What’s your favorite of Aishwarya Rai’s frock flick roles?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

23 Responses

  1. Jillian

    I saw The Last Legion, and from what I remember, yeah… it wasn’t the best. But hey, Colin Firth in an action movie! Yes please!

    Reply
  2. Shashwat

    Jodhaa Akbar is my comfort watch.Chokher Bali has one of her best performances,and arguably one of the finest scripts Aishwarya has worked with.
    Everybody seems to like Devdas,feels like I am the only one who loathes this adaptation(1955 version ftw).The saris in the 2002 Devdas adaptation are pretty but tragically inaccurate,popularising the faux ‘Bengali’ style of draping with larger pallu on left shoulder,smaller one on right.Actually both pallus are supposed to go twice around the left shoulder.Almost every subsequent Bollywood film committed this blunder with the aathpoure style by following Devdas’ footsteps,so much that some real Bengalis started emulating it.This fad was probably as strong as GWTW misrepresenting the corsets,that just stuck like oat slime with the masses.

    Reply
      • Melanie

        Devdas is certainly a spectacle to behold, and Aishwariya’s dancing is only second to Madhuri Dixit’s–both are in the film. But I adore the 1916 novella it’s based on–it’s a beautiful, simple, intimate story. The film is overblown and opulent in every way. So it’s worth watching, just don’t expect to be moved by the melodrama. I still need to see the 1955 version!

        Reply
  3. Natasha Rubin

    Yesssssss, she’s wonderful, and so freakin’ gorgeous! And I love that you included Bride & Prejudice even though it’s not historical. It’s not only a ridiculously fun watch, it’s a really dang good update of P&P, too!

    Reply
  4. Roxana

    The eastern Roman empire wasn’t noted for it’s female warriors. And it they’d had them they wouldn’t have dressed like that.

    Reply
  5. mmcquown

    The only one I’ve seen is Bride and Prejudice, and that was a hoot! I do want to see The Last Legion, and yes, scale mail is a real thing, seen more in the Eastern Empire, but not unknown in the west. It was particularly used by the heavy cavalry called cataphracti.

    Reply
      • Kate D

        Rai is gorgeous. I love Bride and Prejudice. The Mr. Collins is cringey and perfect! I’ll have to watch some of these others!!! I really think the sari is the most beautiful garment on earth.

        Reply
  6. Susan Pola Staples

    I have only seen Bride and Prejudice which I loved. I’ve been meaning to see others such as Umrao Jaan – the blue gown is beyond beautiful – and Jodhaa Akbar .

    Reply
  7. M.E. Lawrence

    Glad to see more actors of South Asian heritage out there in American and British films and telly. I’ve loved Archie Panjabi since she was a tomboyish young thing, and wish she’d do some costume roles, now that she’s in her 40s and very womanly.

    Reply
  8. Jenny H

    Devdas is like eye porn. Everything from the set to the costumes and music is gorgeous. Also, who doesn’t love Shah Rukh?

    Reply
  9. Lily Lotus Rose

    Oh God, Aishwarya Rai is just sooo beautiful!!! She’s one of those women who are so beautiful that every time I see them I’m like, “Why do I even exist?” By default, my answer to your question has to be The Last Legion because it’s the only one I’ve seen. I thought it was a fun romp of a movie–definitely not an award-winner–but fun. The only part that made me roll my eyes was the reveal in final scene. Colin Firth was handsome as ever, and Aishwarya Rai was beautiful.

    Other notes: I’m so excited to see an Indian woman featured on Woman Crush Wednesday! I love the look of Indian clothes! My fave of the costumes pictured here is the stunning blue one from Devdas–wow!

    Reply
  10. Sarah F

    Jodhaa Akbar is in my top five films. It’s just so stunning- and hilarious, and sweet, with random action sequences- it’s got it all.
    Aishwarya Rai is fabulous. So glad she got a post!!

    Reply
  11. SarahV

    I’ve never heard of this woman, but yeesh is she gorgeous! Looking at these pictures, I’m hard-pressed to say that she and I are the same species. Those incandescent eyes!

    Reply
  12. Orian Hutton

    Loved the first part of Bride and Prejudice, but after all the colour, dancing and music of Indian, the latter part seemed rather dull. Until the end when all the colour returns!

    Reply
    • SarahV

      If there is anyone on Earth who does glitzy, glamorous feminity to the Nth Degree it’s the ladies of the Subcontinent. If you ever want to lose an afternoon, just google ‘Indian brides” or “Pakistani brides.” Or even “Indian Mothers of the Bride,” etc. It’s delightful.

      Reply
      • Shashwat

        The funny thing is,Paro(Aish in Devdas)in the original novel is so sick of her new life that she gives up dressing or putting on jewellery.The movie inaccurately goes on drowning her in jewels and lush fabrics.

        Reply
  13. Aleko

    Insofar as that leather thing she’s wearing over her scale armour in The Last Legion resembles anything real-life at all, it’s the boiled-leather corsets worn by working-class British women in the later 17th and 19th centuries, except that it just doesn’t come high enough up the torso to do anything useful to the bosom: it’s neither supportive nor protective.

    Now, boiled leather does of course make relatively cheap and moderately protective armour. And heavy cavalry in the late Roman and Byzantine period did actually wear all-over chain mail or scale armour, including on the legs and arms (and even all over the horse), so that’s not in itself implausible. (Google ‘cataphract’ and you’ll get plenty of images and discussion.) But the notion of wearing cheap cheerful boiled leather armour OVER your lovely expensive scale armour is beyond stupid.

    Reply

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