Sarbjit is out. The reviews are in. And the critics have been unsparing.
Speaking during the run-up to its release, filmmaker Omung Kumar posited that Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was a director’s actor. Truth be told an actor is just that, an actor. Think Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi, Sridevi. Bachchan, on the other hand, is a star. A star whose mere mention can set a hundred films rolling, launch any number of consumer products and bring traffic to a screeching halt. A star who manages to literally get her act together, well sometimes.
This might explain why while her closet peers—Rani Mukerji and Preity Zinta—have faded from the limelight, Aishwarya has managed to remain the cynosure of all eyes. While both her contemporaries, the former and the latter, enjoyed an enviable record of delivering hit on hit and noteworthy performances, Aishwarya’s kitty is replete with consecutive duds and some conspicuous performances. True, there’s Raincoat, Choker Bali, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Guru, Taal and Provoked. But for every Guzaarish she’s done an Albela. For every Jodhaa Akbar a Hum Kissise Kum Nahin. For Dhoom 2 a Dhaai Akshar Prem Ke. For Pink Panther 2 a Mistress of Spices. For Enthiran a Kyun…! Ho Gaya Na.
Rewind to Cannes 2016. An intrepid Aishwarya reminiscing about her first innings at the gala remarked that no one in the world can take the experience away from her. Well, one nearly did. Long before the Cavallis, Saabs, and Armanis there was a Mrs Lulla. And what a sorry spectacle it was, every time. Must have taken a concerted effort on her part to transform the world’s most beautiful into a “dowager sofa set.” Luckily for us, out went the vomit-inducing sarees, blinding dresses, profane gowns and in came (actual) haute couture.
Light years before the saga of a torrid affair (real or imagined) rocked the bubble that is Bollywood and a certain Miss Ranaut emerged unscathed, the then Miss Bachchan survived a Khan(s) enforced boycott et al. Long before an amma jee made it to the Cannes jury, the former Miss World had been there done that and drawn flak for her Lullaesque sartorial choices. Long before Bebo became a tandoori murghi and Kat a chikni chameli, Bachchan resuscitated her career with Kajra Re.
With a Kjo flick on the floors, both Jazbaa and Sarbjit turning out to be profitable ventures, one can but only wonder what makes Bachchan upstage all the others.