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, Shahrukh 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 Shahrukh 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 Bachchan 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 Bachchan in Guru, based on the industrialist Dhirubhai Ambani and it was 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. The sequel to Sarkar, Ram Gopal Varma?s Sarkar Raj, in which she plays a CEO alongside Amitabh Bachchan and Abhishek Bachchan, is said to be one of her best performances till date.
In 2009, Rai looked her gorgeous self in The Pink Panther 2 with Steve Martin.
Ash won the coveted Miss World crown in 2004. 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 Bachchan, son of the iconic Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bachchan. They were married in 2007. The couple have acted together in many movies. They were seen in the latest Lux ad and have been roped in to be part of PETA?s Lovebirds campaign.