Rai was born in Mangalore to Krishnaraj Rai and Vrinda Rai. Her family belongs to the Matrilineal Bunt community of Mangalore. She has one elder brother, Aditya Rai who works in Navy and has also co-produced one of Rai's movies, Dil Ka Rishta. At an early age her parents moved to Mumbai where she attended the Arya Vidya Mandir high school in Santa Cruz. Rai then entered Jai Hind College at Churchgate for one year, and then moved to Ruparel College in Matunga to finish her "HSC" studies. She did well in school and planned to become an architect and went on pursuing studies in architecture. She can communicate in several languages, including her mother tongue Tulu, as well as Hindi, English, Marathi and Tamil. She started studying architecture but gave up her education to pursue a career in modelling.
Ash won the coveted Miss World crown in 1994. Soon after this she pledged to donate her eyes after her death. She went on to become the brand ambassador for brands like L’Oreal, Pepsi and Coco Cola. She struck a pose for many international magazines like TIME and was also voted one of the most attractive and influential women by several polls. She is the first Indian actor to be part of the jury at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. She has appeared in The Oprah Winfrey Show, Late Show with David Letterman and 60 Minutes. She was also the first Indian actress to be replicated in wax at Madame Tussaud’s Museum in London.
She was briefly involved with actors Salman Khan and Vivek Oberoi before marrying actor Abhishek Bacchan, son of the iconic Amitabh Bacchan and Jaya Bacchan. They were married in 2007.
Aishwarya began her career in the film industry with a Tamil film Iruvar in 1997 which was a hit as opposed to her Hindi film Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya with Bobby Deol. She won the Filmfare Best Actress award for her next Tamil film Jeans, which was also an entry to the Oscars. In 1999, she gained recognition in Bollywood with hits like Taal and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, in which she played opposite Salman Khan and Ajay Devgan, her role as Nandini fetching her the Filmfare Best Actress award.
In 2000, her Tamil film Kandukondain Kandukondain, saw a good turnout. She took on the role of Shirley, Shah Rukh Khan’s sister in Josh and then played his love interest in Mohabbatein which won her a nomination for the Filmfare Best Supporting Actress award. In Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai, she played Preeti Virat, a rape victim and was considered for the Filmfare Best Actress award. The year 2001 was a quiet year for Ash.
Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas (2002), in which she played Paro with Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit, was an instant blockbuster. It also received a special screening at the Cannes Film Festival. She won the Filmfare Best Actress award. In 2003, she acted the part of Binodini in a Bengali film Choker Bali which was based on a novel by Rabindranath Tagore. The film was nominated for the Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival.
The year 2004 saw Ash in her first English film, Gurinder Chaddha’s Bride & Prejudice, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Her performance as Neerja in Rituparno Ghosh’s Raincoat was praised. This was followed by her second English film in 2005, The Mistress of Spices with Dylan McDermott of The Practice fame. Her dance sequence Kajra Re from Bunty Aur Babli became one of the most popular tunes of the year.
She had two films out in 2006. Umrao Jaan with Abhishek Bacchan failed to do well while Dhoom 2 where she played Sunehri and shared a ‘controversial’ liplock with Hrithik Roshan was a big hit. In 2007, she played Sujata opposite Abhishek Bacchan in Guru, based on the industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani which was very successful. Provoked which was based on a real episode of domestic violence, won critical acclaim. The other English film The Last Legion did not do so well.
Jodhaa Akbar, released in 2008, in which she acted the part of Jodhaa Bai with Hrithik Roshan was average while the sequel to Sarkar, Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar Raj in which she plays a CEO alongside Amitabh Bacchan and Abhishek Bacchan, is said to be one of her best performances till date.
Aishwarya has lined up quite a few films for 2009. Among them is the English film, The Pink Panther 2 with Steve Martin, the Hindi film Ravana and the Tamil film Endhiran.
In 1999 Rai participated in a world tour called the Magnificent Five along with Aamir Khan, Rani Mukerji, Akshaye Khanna and Twinkle Khanna. In 2003 she became the first Indian actress to be a jury member at the Cannes Film Festival.
In 2004 she travelled all the way to Siachen Glacier, which at a height of 13000 ft is the highest battlefield in the world, to boost the morale of the jawans for a special New Year episode on the NDTV show, Jai Jawan.In 2005, she became a brand ambassador for Pulse Polio, a campaign established by the Government of India in 1994 to eradicate Polio in India.
In February 2005, Rai performed at the HELP! Telethon Concert to help raise money for the victims of 2004 tsunami earthquake in company with other Bollywood stars.
In 2006 she appeared at the closing ceremony of the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, as part of a performance showcasing Indian art, on behalf of the 2010 Commonwealth Games, to be held in New Delhi.In 2008 she along with her family laid the foundation of a special school for underprivilged girls in the Daulatpur village in Uttar Pradesh.The school will be made by her family and is going to be named after her.
In Summer 2008, Rai joined her husband and father-in-law along with Preity Zinta and Ritesh Deshmukh, Shilpa Shetty on the Unforgettable World Tour. The first leg of the tour covered the USA, Canada, London, and Trinidad. The second leg of the tour will most likely happen by the end of this year 2008. Amitabh's company AB Corp Ltd. along with Wizcraft International Entertainment Pvt. Ltd are behind the concert.
Rai has been the most popular face of Indian cinema globally. In 2004 she was chosen by Time magazine as one of the World's "100 Most Influential People", and appeared on the cover of Time magazine, Asia Edition in 2003. She was the subject of a 60 Minutes profile on 2 January 2005, which said that "at least according to thousands of Web sites, Internet polls and even Julia Roberts", she was "The World's Most Beautiful Woman". In October 2004 a wax figure of Rai was put on display in London's Madame Tussaud's wax museum. She was the 6th Indian and the second Bollywood personality after her father-in-law Amitabh Bachchan to get this honour.
In 2005 she became a global brand ambassador of L'Oreal alongside Andie Macdowell, Eva Longoria and Penelope Cruz. The same year, a special Tulip in Netherland was named "Aishwarya Rai" after her. Rai became the first Indian to appear on such shows as Late Show with David Letterman, and was the first Bollywood personality to appear on Oprah's "Women Across the Globe" segment. In 2005, Harpers and Queen's list of 10 Most beautiful women in the world ranked her at the 9th spot.
Aishwarya has previously dated Bollywood actors Salman Khan and Vivek Oberoi. She is married to Indian actor Abhishek Bachchan who is three years her junior. After much speculation concerning their relationship, her engagement to Abhishek Bachchan was announced on January 14, 2007. The announcement was later confirmed by Amitabh Bachchan. Rai married Bachchan on April 20, 2007 according to traditional Hindu rites of the South Indian Bunt community, to which she belongs. Token North Indian and Bengali ceremonies were also performed. The wedding took place in a private ceremony at the Bachchan residence Prateeksha in Juhu, Mumbai. Though the wedding was a private affair intended for the Bachchan and Rai family and friends, the involvement of the media turned it into a national extravaganza.
Happy Birthday (2009)
Sarkar Raj (2008) - Anita Rajan
Jodhaa Akbar (2008) - Jodha
Provoked (2007) - Kiranjit Ahluwalia
Guru (2007) - Sujata
Dhoom 2 (2006) - Sunehri
Umrao Jaan (2006) - Umraao Jaan
Bunty Aur Babli (2005) - Special Appearance (Song)
Shabd (2005) - Antara Vashisht
The Heart of India (2005) - Mumtaz Mahal
Bride & Prejudice (2004) - Lalita Bakshi
Khakee (2004) - Mahalaxshmi
Kyun...! Ho Gaya Na (2004) - Diya Malhotra
Raincoat (2004) - Neerja/Neeru
Chokher Bali (2003) - Binodini
Dil Ka Rishta (2003) - Tia Sharma
Kuch Naa Kaho (2003) - Namrata Shrivastav
Devdas (2002) - Parvati ('Paro')
23rd March 1931: Shaheed (2002) - Special Appearance (song)
Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin (2002) - Komal Rastogi
Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam (2002) - Special Appearence
Shakti: The Power (2002) - Dream Girl
Albela (2001) - Sonia
Mohabbatein (2000) - Megha
Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000) - Meenakshi
Dhaai Akshar Prem Ke (2000) - Sahiba Gareval
Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai (2000) - Preeti Virat
Josh (2000) - Shirley
Mela (2000) - Guest Appearance
Sanam Tere Hain Hum (2000) - Special Appearance
Ravoyi Chandamama (1999) - Special Appearance (Song)
Taal (1999) - Mansi
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) - Nandini
Aa Ab Laut Chalen (1999) - Pooja Walia
Jeans (1998) - Madhumitha/Vaishnavi
Iruvar (1997) - Pushpa/Kalpana
...Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya (1997) - Ashi Kapoor