How ‘Taal’ Took Aishwarya Rai to New Heights

The plot of Subhash Ghai’s 1999 film was nothing new. The killer soundtrack and a rising star made it a global sensation.

Meher Manda

August 12, 2022

How ‘Taal’ Took Aishwarya Rai to New Heights
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as Mansi (Taal)

The indelible magic of Indian cinema lies not in its good and bad films, but in its zeitgeist-defining moments that transfix an entire movie theater, chip away at the audience’s indifference, and make them fall in love. Rajinikanth flipping a cigarette into his mouth, Madhuri Dixit dancing to “Ek Do Teen,” Hrithik Roshan bursting onto the screen in a mesh t-shirt and trademark choreography, Shah Rukh Khan opening his arms wide enough to contain his lover and the world, Sridevi in a rain-soaked blue sari dancing alone, and, more recently, a lovesick Allu Arjun dragging his feet after the woman he loves.

One other such singular moment was Aishwarya Rai walking into the frame in a white blouse and skirt set in the intoxicating “Ramta Jogi” from Taal (1999), striking a pose that would warm the hearts of erotic sculptures adorning temples all over India. And, just like that, a star was born. Subhash Ghai’s Taal, a musical love story starring Rai, Akshaye Khanna, and Anil Kapoor, is a memorable film not because it is good cinema, but because it understands our keen idolization of stardom on screen. Taal hedges all its bets on a then-rising star who would come to grip an entire generation — a once-in-a-lifetime beauty who was an elegant dancer with an old-world stillness and arresting screen presence. Aishwarya Rai is central to what makes the Subhash Ghai movie an essential film for understanding the Indian film actor as a magical, hypnotic superstar.