Aishwarya Rai Bachchan: Recent work (2006–present)
In 2007 she appeared in Mani Ratnam’s Guru as Sujata. Speculated to be based on the life of Indian businessman Dhirubhai Ambani, it was a rag to riches story about an ambitious small town man who ends up as the owner of the biggest corporation in India. The film was premiered at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto, Canada, making it the first Indian film to have a mainstream international premiere in Canada. The film was critically acclaimed and performed well at the box office. Critical reception for Rai was mixed. While Nikhat Kazmi from The Times of India wrote that she is “just okay and fails to register the growth in her character”, Rediff.com’s Raja Sen described it as “arguably her finest performance, visible especially when she takes over the film’s climax.” Rai got her seventh Filmfare nomination for Best Actress for the role. In the same year she starred in Jag Mundhra’s British film Provoked as Kiranjit Ahluwalia (an NRI woman who killed her abusive husband after facing severe domestic violence) alongside Naveen Andrews. The film was panned by critics and was also a commercial failure, though Rai received positive reviews from critics. In the same year she appeared as a female Indian warrior from Kerala named Mira in Doug Lefler’s epic film The Last Legion alongside Sir Ben Kingsley, Colin Firth and Thomas Sangster. The film was a critical failure.
In 2008, she starred alongside Hrithik Roshan in Ashutosh Gowariker’s historical drama Jodhaa Akbar, a partly fictionalised account of the life of Muslim Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, played by Roshan and his Hindu wife Jodha Bai, played by Rai. The film was a critical and commercial success, earning revenues of over Rs 590 million domestically. Rai’s performance in the film was praised by critics, with Rajeev Masand writing, “Aishwarya Rai is wonderfully restrained and uses her eyes expertly to communicate so much, making this one of her finest outings on screen”. She earned her eighth nomination for Best Actress at the Filmfare for her performance. Later that year she co-starred with husband Abhishek Bachchan and father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan in Ram Gopal Verma’s Sarkar Raj, a sequel to his previous film Sarkar. She played the CEO of a major power company proposing to establish a new power plant in rural Maharashtra.
In 2009 she appeared in Harald Zwart’s spy comedy film The Pink Panther 2 playing the role of criminology expert, Sonia Solandres. Like its predecessor, the sequel received negative reviews from critics and did a moderate business of $75,871,032 worldwide. As of August 2009, she is slated to appear with Rajinikanth in the Tamil film Endhiran, directed by S. Shankar, with Vikram Kennedy in Mani Ratnam’s next film, Raavana which is also to be simultaneously made in Hindi, titled Raavan, with Abhishek Bachchan in the lead. She will also appear in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish opposite Hrithik Roshan, Vipul Shah’s Action Replay opposite Akshay Kumar, Abhinay Deo’s next film produced by Farhan Akhtar and Vishal Bharadwaj’s next directorial venture.
In 2009 Rai was awarded the Padma Shri for her contributions to Indian cinema. In the same year she refused to accept the second-highest Order Of France, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres as her father was suffering from serious illness, and she wanted her whole family to attend the award function. She is only the fourth Indian actor after Amitabh Bachchan, Nandita Das and Shahrukh Khan to be chosen for an Order Of France. In June 2009, she was declared the Female Star of The Decade at the tenth International Indian Film Academy Awards held in Macau.