On Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's birthday, a look back at her best performances in Mani Ratnam's films

Written By: Shomini Sen | Updated: Nov 01, 2022, 03:09 PM IST

Fans and critics would agree that Aishwarya Rai Bachchan has delivered some of her career's best performances in auteur Mani Ratnam's films. She made her debut in cinema with Ratnam's Iruvar back in 1997 and since then the actress and the director have shared a long working relationship and delivered some iconic films together. The four films, including the latest 'Ponniyin Selvan 1', have been distinct from each other and Ratnam has managed to extract the best out of Rai through each of these films. She has played strong women in each of these films, making them memorable characters in her film repertoire.

On Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's birthday, here's a look back at the films that she has collaborated on with Mani Ratnam. 


Aishwarya was a complete newcomer when Ratnam cast her in 'Iruvar' often known as a cinematic version of MGR and Karunanidhi's life, it featured seasoned actors like Mohanlal, Prakash Raj, Revathi and more. Ratnam gave Aishwarya a double role to play- one of a free-spirited, cheeky Kalpana and the other as the shy, dutiful wife Pushpavalli. For a newbie, Aishwarya managed to impress one and all with her distinct portrayal of both characters making everyone sit up and notice her talent. 



It was Abhishek Bachchan's film for sure but Aishwarya Rai too held her own. She played Guru's confidante, lover and wife Suju who was a bit of a rebel and had a strong mind of her own. The story set in the 1950s in Guajarat had Aishwarya Rai playing a feisty woman who knew her rights and never wanted to bow down to patriarchal diktats. Ratnam also tapped into the chemistry of Aishwarya and Abhishek who at the time of the making of the film, started dating and subsequently got married. 



The film will go down in history as one of the most underrated Ratnam films. Made in Tamil and Hindi simultaneously, the film, of course, foccussed on the histrionics of Vikram and Abhishek Bachchan who played the leads in Tamil and Hindi, the film also had Aishwarya delivering a restrained, haunting performance. Ratnam made her gorgeous eyes speak more than words and she was breathtakingly beautiful in the film- going through myriad emotions. 


Ponniyin Selvan-1

At 48, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan never looked this good. A film based on Kalki's epic saga of the Chola dynasty and the power struggle for the coveted throne, Aishwarya played Nandini who may be projected in the film for her shrewdness but it is also a character who is far more intelligent and calculative than any of the mighty kings and who knows how to use her beauty for her benefit.