Aishwarya Rai is again finding herself at the center of a controversy about the place of female actors in Bollywood and the demand placed on them to lose weight quickly.
The 40-year-old actress, who had been criticized in the past for not losing weight after the birth of her child, has sparked a new controversy when filmmaker Prahlad Kakkar openly said she isn’t thin enough to take on an upcoming role.
Kakkar has been working with Rai’s husband, Abhishek Bachchan, and while he said he’s looking forward to Aishwarya being part of the project, he made her weight a central concern.
“I don’t care if my film is her comeback film or not. It’ll just be good to have her on board, but she has to lose a little more weight, as she has to play a 21-year-old, and age till 29,” Kakkar said. “Her character will also be pregnant with twins.
“Right now, it’s difficult for her to do all that because she’s a hands-on mom. Her daughter is still very young, and it’ll be a logistical nightmare for her to travel or stay out of town for two months to shoot outdoors.”
The comments have ignited a controversy in Bollywood, with many saying that directors and producers are placing an unfair burden on female actresses.
This week, director Sujoy Ghosh also replaced actress Vidya Balan in his upcoming project, reportedly because of her pregnancy. The move has drawn attention to Bollywood’s “pregnancy clause,” which shuts out actresses who are pregnant.
In an interview to Mid-Day, veteran actress Hema Malini said, “Today the no pregnancy clause should be made mandatory, but only for a certain time period, say a maximum of six months. If the artiste gets pregnant before the film goes on the floors, she should inform the producer. But if the film gets delayed for other reasons, then it’s wrong to expect the actress to wait. She can’t be held responsible in such a situation.”
Ashwarya Rai was again in the midst of controversy in 2012, when several critcs complained that she had a “duty” to her fans to lose weight after the birth of her child. Many fans ridiculed her for not losing weight, including one who put together a video showing pictures of Rai after gaining weight set to elephant noises.
Many of the tens of thousands of people to view the video agreed. “She is a Bollywood actress and it is her duty to look good and fit,” one video commenter wrote. Another suggested she “needs to learn from people like Victoria Beckham who are back to size zero weeks after their delivery.”
Despite the controversy, Aishwarya Rai has forged on. This week the face of Kalyan Jewellers helped to inaugurate three new showrooms of the brand in New Delhi.