Since the beginning of her career Aishwarya Rai made over 50 music videos and over 40 movies. She made her acting debut in Mani Ratnam's Tamil biopic film, Iruvar (1997) with Mohanlal, the controversial film was a critical success and won many awards including Best Film award at the Belgrade International Film Festival, two National Film Awards, and two Filmfare Awards South. Rai made her Bollywood debut in the film, Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya opposite Bobby Deol, which also released that year; the film did not do well at the box office, and was also panned by critics. However, her third project, S. Shankar's Tamil film, Jeans (1998) was a commercial success. The film was also noted for the song "Poovukkul", written by Vairamu
thu, and some reviews of the music video compared her to prominent world monuments.
In 1999, Rai starred in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam opposite Salman Khan and Ajay Devgan. The film also became her first box office success in Bollywood and earned her first Filmfare Best Actress Award for her.
In 2000, she appeared in Mansoor Khan's Josh alongside Shahrukh Khan and Chandrachur Singh, in which she played a Catholic girl named Shirley who falls in love with the sibling of her Brother's enemy. The film was a commercial success. Later that year she appeared in Satish Kaushik's Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai opposite Anil Kapoor.
In 2002, Rai appeared alongside Shahrukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas, an adaptation of Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay's famous novel by the same name. The film received a special screening at the Cannes Film Festival. It became the highest-grossing film of the year in both India and overseas, earning a revenue of Rs 390 million domestically.
In 2004 she appeared in Gurinder Chadha's Bollywood-style English adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Bride and Prejudice alongside Martin Henderson. This was followed by Rajkumar Santoshi's Khakee alongside Amitabh Bachchan, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgan and Jayapradha, in the film she played a negative role for the first time in her career. In the same year she appeared in in her second film with Rituparno Ghosh, Raincoat alongside Ajay Devgan. The film was highly acclaimed by the critics, with Rai receiving rave reviews for her performance.
In 2009 Rai was awarded the Padma Shri for her contributions to Indian cinema. In the same year she refused to accept the second-highest Order Of France, Ordre des Arts et des Lettres as her father was suffering from serious illness, and she wanted her whole family to attend the award function. She is only the fourth Indian actor after Amitabh Bachchan, Nandita Das and Shahrukh Khan to be chosen for an Order Of France. In June 2009, she was declared the Female Star of The Decade at the tenth International Indian Film Academy Awards held in Macau.
In 1999 Aishwarya began dating Salman Khan, her co-star from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, after the filming of that movie. Their breakup a few years later generated a substantial amount of press attention; a police report from Rai's parents turned up alleging that Khan had smashed windows and furniture at their home, and an inebriated Khan subsequently assaulted Rai on the set of a movie she was working on, soon before he was arrested for drunk driving and vehicular homicide.
Rai is married to actor Abhishek Bachchan. After much speculation concerning their relationship, their engagement was announced on 14 January 2007. The announcement was later confirmed by his father Amitabh Bachchan. The couple got married on 20 April 2007 according to traditional Hindu rites of the South Indian Bunt community, to which she belongs. Token North Indian and Bengali ceremonies were also performed. The wedding took place in a private ceremony at the Bachchan residence Prateeksha in Juhu, Mumbai. Though the wedding was a private affair intended for the Bachchan and Rai families and friends, the involvement of the media turned it into a national extravaganza. They have been cited as a supercouple in the Indian media.