Published On: Sat, May 28th, 2016

Why Aishwarya Rai needs a bravery award for acting in Sarbjit



A long, loose, drab kurta that can make a sack look flattering, grey strands of hair, dark under-eyes, dull skin pallor, a pair of big glasses and a voice gone hoarse with a desperate attempt at being a powerful, determined voice of a stronger than sword Sikh woman. These are things difficult to associate with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

When the world’s most beautiful woman tries to fight against her own blessed beauty and image in order to be seen as more than skin and L’Oreal deep, it takes a lot of courage.

Watch her in Sarbjit, raising her dainty hand and belt out a word like “HATT”. It’s like asking Tabu to dress like Malaika Arora and do an item number.

To make things worse, Aishwarya’s innate grace, beauty, poise and glamorous image challenge you as much as her to forget the Miss World crown that lies 20 years heavy on that glorious head.

When a miscast like her, takes on the heavy demands of playing Dalbir Kaur sans glamour and chews her role in Sarbjit with as much hunger if not bite as her co-star, Randeep Hooda, she deserves nothing less than a bravery medal.

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How can it be possibly easy for someone with Jodhaa’s regal bearing to play a poor villager? Can you see someone born to walk the Cannes red carpet in Salvatore Ferragomo heels, pick up a broken bathroom slipper and try fixing it?

Can you see her eat a dry roti, sabzi out of a shabby plate in jail? Can you see her feeding branches to buffaloes? Can you see her stitch clothes on an old ’90s sewing machine? Can you see her sit like a heavy weight Punjaban on a khatiya?

Director Umang Kumar can. He places his bets high on Rai’s commercial factor, having been encouraged by an unlikely Priyanka Chopra’s success at pulling off the Manipuri Mary Kom.

And you know what? It takes a while to accept Aishwarya as a rural poor but by the time the film reaches its second half, you don’t care. You may still not quite see her as Dalbir, but you do believe a little in those tears.

All non-acceptance hang-ups are dropped the moment she hugs Hooda through the jail rods and reacts spontaneously to his breakdown. The two are nothing but helpless brother and sister alone in that moment of pain and agony.

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In the 40 plus Aishwarya’s case, it has taken almost 20 years in the film industry and films like Raincoat, Iruvar, Chokher Bali and Guzaarish, to be taken seriously as an actor instead of a glamorous Dhoom 2 girl.

It is this “never say die” attitude that Aishwarya probably connects with most, in the character of Dalbir Kaur in Sarbjit.

No matter how many times, she gets flak for her fashion debacles at Cannes or for her weight earlier, she sportingly takes it on the chin, flashes a smile, shrugs her shoulders and dares to be adventurous enough to turn up with purple lipstick and simply do her job as L’oreal ambassador.

When she last made her comeback back with Jazba she did everything to be the hero rather than a heroine. She tortured her lungs out in that film as much as she does in Sarbjit.

It’s as if she is tired of not being “seen” beyond her beauty. As if she wants to be heard… “Look, I’m really trying”.

We hear you, dear Aishwarya. We hear your sincerity.

Sarbjit may be far from Aishwarya’s Mother India as the director puts it in one of his interviews, but she certainly does tug your heart a wee bit as the sister who will move heaven and hell to rescue her brother from the Pakistan jail.

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Seeing this trace of a potential probably, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Mani Ratnam have always invested full faith and big bucks in her and given us her best work in movies like Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Guzaarish, Guru and Iruvar.

A week after Sarbjit‘s release, Aishwarya has to not just bear the burden of its box office results (Rs 20.05 crore till now), but silly gossip like Abhishek’s walkout or her response on Salman Khan or Sonam Kapoor’s comment on her lipstick.

For the sake of her sheer persistence and the bravery to take on the pressures of a 40 plus actress trying to transform her image and eagerness to do good work, let’s hope that she is offered parts that accept and celebrate her beauty too, instead of forcing a lung-wrenching “HATT” out of her.

About the Author

Syed Ammar Alavi

- is Lahore (Pakistan) based journalist & writer with 25-year experience in print, wire and broadcast forms of journalism. His major fields of interest are politics, film,tv,sports, climate change and technology