Nov 2, 2003

Ash Bash-ing

Ok, I shall bite: is Aishwarya Rai such a big star that people are going nuts that she's turned 30? I mean I can understand people going crazy if her age was counting down or something: "Oh, she will be a sweet 16 again someday!" Ok, I'm being mean and perhaps it isn't really her fault that everyone's going gaga, but she's definitely milking the occasion too.

As you can see, I'm not one of those who go "Rah, Rah Rai!" over the lady. As an actress, I don't think usne kuch khaas tiir maare.n hai.n, that in an age where some rather pretty Indian actresses are actually doing well. I don't even think she in the top 4 or 5 current mainstream Hindi actresses (if it wasn't for all those qualifiers, she's be even lower). Checking her filmography at IMDB out (instead of her), I see ~4 hits - Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Taal, Kandukondain Kandukondain and two half hits in Jeans and Devdas (may be a little wrong) - not too bad in a 7 year career. But where is the acting, dearie? I may be completely biased here, having only seen her work at length in Iruvar and Kandukondain..., where I thought she was good in the first and competent in the second, but I haven't seen her being discussed much as an actress.

Naah, I must be biased - I was among the many people who backed Sushmita Sen over her in their head-to-heads in 1993-94-95 (blame it on my wide-eyedness and the age 13-14-15). Today I back neither as actresses. She is lucky to get decent offers, but until they really explode in my face, all the fans will have a carper in me.

Another pet peeve is public calling her "Ash". I mean, are they her <start coarse Tamil phrase> maamaa or machaa.n <end coarse Tamil phrase> (Translated to are they related to her in any close way?) to cut her name one-third? There's something that annoys me about it when every Tom, Dick and Harry calls her that, establishing some sort of acquaintanceship with her. I'm a little worried, do I like her sub-consciously to take affront? But it's not the same as saying SRK or Sachin or Rahul or Big B, it's like if everyone if said Chi-Chi (Govinda recently complained about how everyone calls him that without even really knowing him) or Bebo or Lolo (these Kapoor khandan guys sure had a kink for the alliteration) or Lee-Hesh or Atal or something.

So coming back to the original poser: does she deserve such hoopla being festooned over her? Not yet atleast. Compare with some other star birthday celebrations of late. Amitabh's birthday has been a subject of hype and coverage in keeping with his resurgence of late. At 61, I wouldn't grudge him that. Sachin Tendulkar's thirtieth was also splashed on the front pages - but in cricket, especially for a batsman, 30 is a milestone. Careers last only till 35-38, so turning 30 for a long-serving player can be a time for recollection, assessment and change in expectations. Now we look at it as a list like: needs to get to 35 Test centuries, India's first 300+ Test innings, 12000 Test runs, even 150 wickets in ODI bowling perhaps? Also, we've all grown up watching SRT now, a little protective affection is inevitable. Ms. Rai on the other hand - long way to go yet. It's not as if she was the young Sachin of the film industry or she's even done a Sehwag there. Maybe at 40, with successful international productions, genuinely carrying a film (however awful) only with her performance and even a Bond-dame later perhaps? If she can avoid the pitfalls of the regular Bollywood heroine at 40 and still have people going crazy then, yes, on November 1 2013, I shall join the rest in offering more than the routine birthday wish.

Yes, I know I come from a land where film actor's birthdays are celebrated each year by their respective rasikar manDrams by pasting posters on every free inch of wall space, but isn't Bollywood the "leader of Indian Cinema" ;-)

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