From Aishwarya Rai Bachchan to Priyanka Chopra: six beauty queens turned Bollywood stars

Bollywood has a history of turning beauty pageant winners and finalists into successful screen stars

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Miss Universe Harnaaz Sandhu’s recent declaration of wanting to star alongside Shah Rukh Khan in a future film comes as no surprise, especially from the beauty queen who already has two film titles to her credit.

Judging by Bollywood history over the past 70 years, this is almost expected of Sandhu, who was crowned winner of the global beauty pageant on December 13.

While no film roles have been announced yet, it is reasonably confident to assume discussions with producers are well under way, as beauty pageant winners and finalists in the past have wasted no time in letting the tiara pave the way to the large screen.

Here is a look at six other beauty queens from the subcontinent who made the transition to Bollywood.

1. Nutan (Miss India 1952)

Such was her screen success, Nutan co-winning the Miss India contest alongside classical dancer Indrani Rahman remains a relative footnote in her film career.

The transition to the big screen was effortless and she went on to win a record five Filmfare Awards for Best Actress for star turns in 1967's Milan and 1978's Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki.

Full name Nutan Samarth Bahl, she went on to work until her death in 1991 with a late career highlight including 1985's Meri Jung, which resulted in another Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress.

2. Meenakshi Seshadri (Miss India 1981)

After winning the title at the age of 17, Seshadri smoothly crossed over to Bollywood.

After making her debut in 1983's Painter Babu, she went on to become a box-office drawcard through the 1980s and 1990s.

Her best films are widely acknowledged to include the dramas Ghayal (1990), Damini (1993) and Ghatak (1996).

After the last role, Seshadri quit the industry, moved to the US to join her husband, and opened the Cherish Dance School in Texas.

3. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (Miss World 1994)

After being crowned Miss World, Rai-Bachchan instantly became a global celebrity.

Her much-anticipated film debut was the 1997 Tamil film Iruvar, before starring alongside Bobby Deol in the Hindi language Aur Pyaar Ho Gaya that same year.

Rai Bachchan continued to make her mark by appearing in Jeans, the high-budget 1998 romantic-drama and earned Filmfare Best Actress Awards for roles in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) and Devdas (2002) alongside Salman Khan and Shah Rukh Khan, respectively.

Her international stature, maintained through global advertising campaigns for leading brands and being a UN Goodwill Ambassador, resulted in Rai Bachchan being invited to be a jury member at the Cannes Film Festival in 2003, the first Indian actor to do so.

4. Priyanka Chopra Jonas (Miss World 2000)

One of India's most influential celebrities, Chopra Jonas used her Miss World crown to build a formidable acting career spanning film and television in Bollywood and Hollywood.

When it comes to the former, Chopra Jonas amassed a number of box office hits including Fashion (2008), which bagged her Best Actress wins at Filmfare and India's National Film Awards, the superhero film Krrish (2006), and the lavish historical drama Bajirao Mastani in 2015.

In the US, she appeared in the cast of the crime series Quantico and the film remake of Baywatch alongside The Rock.

Chopra Jonas's latest film role is in the blockbuster The Matrix Resurrections, out on Thursday.

5. Jacqueline Fernandez (Miss Universe Sri Lanka 2006)

After the winning the pageant in her homeland, the Bahrain-born Fernandez set her sights on Bollywood and made her debut alongside Amitabh Bachchan in Aladin.

Her career breakthrough, however, came in her pulsating role in psychological thriller Murder 2, in 2011.

Fernandez went on to become a regular box office performer with high-octane roles in action films in the Race film franchise and the Dishoom, with the latter partly shot in Abu Dhabi.

6. Pooja Hegde (Miss Universe India 2010)

She may have come second place in Miss Universe India, but Hedge soon established herself in Bollywood with winning roles in both Hindi and Telugu films.

The actress appeared in a number of in high-profile films over the last five years, including the 2016 epic adventure film Mohenjo Daro with Hrithik Roshan and the comedy Housefull 4 in 2019.

She is presently filming the comedy Cirkus alongside Ranveer Singh, to be released in July 2022.

Updated: December 25, 2021, 2:34 PM