Earlier today, I had a bit of a rant on Twitter as I wanted to gauge the opinions people had about Aishwarya Rai Bachchan. For those not in the know, the actress – and, more specifically, a new mum – was spotted at a party a few weeks ago. She has been making appearances every now and then at various events since the birth of her daughter but the reason this particular event caused such a stir was… well… she looked a little “heavy” (I’m trying to be as polite as I can!). Yes, you’d be mistaken if you thought this was allowed after the birth of a baby because since being photographed, her weight has become an internet topic of conversation. It seems everyone who’s anyone had some sort of view… and I’m no different.
Tomorrow begins the Cannes Film Festival 2012 and it seems that more than reporting about the festival itself, some media outlets are more concerned with what Aishwarya is going to wear and how she will look. So, in plain terms, it’s actually all about how she will go about hiding the post-pregnancy bulge? It’s about the fact that this is the actress’s 11th time at the festival and because it is her first since becoming a mum, she will be representing India from a different perspective? No, I disagree with all of this line of thought if that’s what it is. What this is about is that Aishwarya has been branded by so many as ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’ (which was actually something said by none other than Julia Roberts) and that the fact that she is a little heavier now than in previous years, India is finding it hard to be proud and happy with the woman who can easily be seen as the bridge between them and the western world. Aishwarya has always gone about portraying a certain image on an international stage but she has always done so whilst remaining in touch with her Indian roots and never shying away from showcasing the richness of the Indian culture. However, what is making everyone feel that little bit more uncomfortable this time around is that Aishwarya as a mother is not quite in keeping what India wants to portray… and if this is really what it is then it is a very sad state of affairs indeed.
I read a piece written by Sarfraz Manzoor in The Guardian (http://bit.ly/Jf3h9M) and it really made me think. Being a British Asian, I have always found myself to take pride in the fact that I can take the best of both the eastern and western cultures and live my life accordingly. When I think of Aishwarya, all I see is a lady who indeed has everything but also someone who has made the most of opportunities that have come her way as well as staying true to her traditions as per her upbringing. I have always been in awe of her because, in many ways, she has put India very firmly on the map much before the wave of the likes of Slumdog Millionaire. Here was a model, an actress and an ambassador to be proud of but also here was a lady who was faced with much criticism along the way. Yes, it’s part and parcel of the life she must lead but the bottom line for me has always been that she represented India to the world in a way no other could.
Sitting here writing this piece, I’m actually feeling a heart-sinking feeling about the scrutiny that Aishwarya will be subjected to during and after the Cannes Film Festival. However, what’s making me feel worse is the fact that there are younger generations of Indian women around the globe who will learn so much about their culture by the way the country will react to Aishwarya from tomorrow onwards. Is this what we teach our young girls? Is it not more important to teach them that beauty is not about your size or in the way you look but more about the person you are? Is it so wrong to embrace Aishwarya as a mother in all her glory as opposed to putting pressure on her to be back to her pre-pregnancy size purely because she is a public figure?
Let’s get one thing straight… this is in no way about a woman who has simply ‘let herself go’. Aishwarya has given birth and is currently on a sabbatical. I am sure that once she returns to our screens (if she ever does), she will return to her slim self before doing so should the role (if she comes back with a film) require her to. However, in the mean time I do feel that the world’s eyes will be on her during the film festival but I feel that India should be ashamed… Ashamed about their expectations of female public figures and their appearances…. ashamed about conforming to the thought that beauty should solely be assigned to those women who are slim… and ashamed about showcasing to the world how narrow-minded one chain of thought can go on to shape the ideologies of a whole nation.