(NEW YORK) -- The world’s ‘Most Beautiful Woman’ is at the center of a growing controversy over fame, motherhood and baby fat.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, a former Miss World and one of India’s most beloved Bollywood stars, is getting slammed for taking too long to lose her post-pregnancy baby weight. “SHOCKING! Fat Aishwarya Rai!” and “Aishwarya’s Baby Fat Woes!” are just two examples of the headlines that have triggered an international debate over India’s perception of women and fame.
Bachchan, Miss World in 1994, has long been an icon of beauty and source of great pride for her country. In the U.S., she has charmed the likes of Oprah, David Letterman and Julia Roberts. She has high profile cosmetic contracts with L’Oreal, among others. Add to all of this her high-profile wedding in 2007 to the Indian actor Abhishek Bachchan, the son of the highly revered actor Amitabh Bachchan, and the result is a woman who has been an undisputed national treasure -- until now.
In November 2011, Bachchan gave birth to a little girl named Aaradhya. Recently, she started stepping out in public again. Pictures show a woman who has clearly gained weight, but does not appear unhealthy or abnormal for a new mother. Yet, online criticism of her body was swift, harsh and carried an undeniably snarky tone.
The boiling point appears to have come with the release of a report by “Bollywood CIA” posted on Youtube. The video, titled “SHOCKING! Fat Aishwarya Rai!” shows before and after pictures of the star set to the sound of an elephant trumpeting in the background. The commentary snidely describes her as “rather plump” and includes the following:
“Instead of losing some of her flab after her delivery the Bachchan Bahu has gained 5 or 6 kilos…we think it is time she hire a good trainer to help her sweat it out in the gym.”
The idea that her role as a public figure makes her weight gain unacceptable has led many to question India’s obsession with beauty and perception of women. It has put Bachchan at the center of a discussion on the standards India sets for all women.
Professor Rachel Dwyer, the professor of Indian Culture and Cinema at SOAS, University of London, sees the criticism as a western import.
“I think this baby weight thing is a western obsession with pulling stars down,” she wrote in an email exchange on the topic. “Women who lose weight are congratulated and those who don’t are seen as letting themselves go. I’ve not heard of it in India before.”
Professor Dwyer points out that as she got older it took longer for Bachchan to find suitable roles, a challenge well documented for women in film, theater and fashion around the world. She cited Karishma Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit as two older women who are trying to make a comeback into Bollywood now that their children are a little older.
Bachchan is not shying away from her weight. She is expected to walk the red carpet in Cannes. Reports are she is bringing her new daughter with her, as she has done for all of her work related trips since becoming a mother.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio