Aishwarya has not shied away from speaking about her struggles in interviews. In a TedX talk at IIM Trichy, however, Aishwarya also speaks about her challenging childhood. The video was uploaded on May 22.
The actor says that she grew up in a housing board in Chennai. When she lost her father at the age of eight, her mother, who was not educated, had to step up to bring up her four children.
Aishwarya Rajesh’s Journey in life and cinema as narrated by her:
I was born into a lower middle class family in a slum housing board. We were six of us, and my father died when I was eight. My mother is the most important person in my life. She is not educated, she does not know a word of Hindi or English, she used to travel to Mumbai to buy sarees and then comeback to sell them. She was also an LIC Agent. I studied in Holy Angles and did my college in Ethiraj. My mother provided really good education even if we couldn’t afford it.
The second tragedy hit her family when her eldest brother passed away. “My eldest brother passed away when I was 12. And we were clueless on what happened. They called it suicide, murder.. we didn’t know. It was very hard for my mom to take it. It was her eldest son, her first child.”
Life moved on, days passed by after few years my second brother was doing hotel management and later he got a job with a good salary and my mom was so happy that he was up and ready, grown up. He was going to support the family. In another tragedy that followed he died in a road accident
All this happened in a span of 1-2 years and it was now in Aishwarya’s hand to stand-up and supports the family. “So now it was only me my, mum and brother. My mum gave up at this point of time. I wanted to step up and provide for my family”
The actress started taking up any small odd jobs she could find.”I was in 11th std at that time. My first job was to promote a chocolate brand. I would run around to the people in the store asking them to taste the product, giving out sample tasting. I earned 250 Rs that day.” She looked back at the first earnings she made.
Post that she started doing a lot of events, host birthday parties where she used to get paid between 500 – 1000 Rs a day.
“I was happy that like this I was able to earn about 5k a month. But that is not enough to support my family. So I decided to get into TV serials. My first job in TV serial paid me 1, 5000 Rs per day and I would have about 5-6 days of shoot. I’ll be shooting from morning to night for 1.5k, how will the money be sufficient?”
Aishwarya decided to move to films to make more money but the struggles in the journey was no less. The beautiful, talented actress we love seeing in the screen today did not have it easy.
“Sexual harassment, discreet comments on my complex, my personality, my dressing sense, I even got rejected because I could speak Tamil. I had to face so much, criticism for my looks, colour, for not knowing how to carry myself, and I had many directors tell me that I was not heroin material. I didn’t get any opportunity 2-3 years.”
After years of doing small roles her break through however was her role in Kaka Muttai, ironically it was a role of a mother to two boys. “I loved the script and I didn’t find anything wrong in playing a mother role. It was game changer.”
After the movie she was showered with praises, but didn’t get any opportunity after that for a year. That’s when she did Kanaa with Arunraja Kamaraj, she says, deciding that she would play the hero herself. The film tells the story of a young girl from a village who aspires to be a cricketer.
With this film, Aishwarya says that she has managed to get several more heroine-centric films. Her message to the audience is that if she could get to where she is right now, anyone can. She also adds that women who face sexual harassment should fight back like she has.
Stardom seems to have picked her out from the lineup. But one glance at her, the clichéd words ‘simple’ and ‘down-to-earth’ come to mind. That’s Aishwarya Rajesh for you, an unassuming person who greets everyone with an infectious smile. In an industry which looks for specific parameters before casting someone into the limelight, it is surprising that Aishwarya is an exception. Incredibly talented with unconventional looks and an even more humble attitude, one wonders how she singularly broke a strict pattern in an otherwise steroetypical industry.
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