is an Indian film actress and model. She has appeared as the leading lady in several Hindi films of Bollywood and one movie in Telugu. Rao was born and raised in Mumbai; she made her screen debut in Ab Ke Baras (2002), for which she was nominated for the Filmfare Best Female Debut Award in 2003. One of her most popular roles was in the romance film Vivah (2006).
Rao’s roles in Welcome to Sajjanpur (2008) and Main Hoon Na (2004) earned her a Stardust Best Actress Award and a Filmfare Best Supporting Actress Award nomination respectively. She has been called “Bollywood’s quintessential girl next-door” by various media outlets. The Times of India named Rao one of its “50 Most Desirable Women of 2011.” Legendary Painter M. F. Husain pronounced Amrita Rao as his 2nd muse 11 years after he painted Madhuri Dixit and made several paintings dedicated to the actress’s role in Vivah
2002–2006: Early career
Before starting her career as an actor, Rao appeared in several commercials during her college days. Her first public appearance was in the music video for Alisha Chinoy’s song Woh Pyar Mera.
In 2002, Rao played her first leading role as Anjali Thapar in Raj Kanwar’s fantasy thriller Ab Ke Baras.Film critic Planet Bollywood wrote, “Amrita Rao comes out the real winner, with her dancing skills, innocent looks and decent acting skills”. In May 2003, Rao starred with Shahid Kapoor in the coming-of-age romance film Ishq Vishk as a college student. Rao’s portrayal earned her several awards, including Filmfare Best Female Debut Award (2003) and IIFA Award for Star Debut of the Year, (2004).
In 2004, Rao starred in Indra Kumar’s adult comedy Masti, opposite Vivek Oberoi. The film received positive responses from critics, and was a financial success at the box office. Her performance as Anchal, who is obsessively possessive about her husband, was also received positively.
Rao next had a supporting role in the Farah Khan action comedy Main Hoon Na, where she co-starred alongside Shah Rukh Khan, Sunil Shetty, Sushmita Sen and Zayed Khan. Her role as an army officer’s daughter Sanjana (Sanju) Bakshi earned Rao Best Supporting Actress, her second filmfare nomination. Rao had a minor role in Milan Luthria’s Deewar; she played Radhika, Gaurang Kaul’s love interest.
Rao co-starred alongside Shahid Kapoor and Sanjay Dutt in the 2005 drama Vaah! Life Ho Toh Aisi!. Critical response towards the film was negative, although Rao garnered acclaim for her performance of a school teacher. Glamsham said the only thing that made the film watchable was the acting of Amrita Rao. That same year, Rao took the lead role in the John Matthew Matthan drama Shikhar, in which she portrayed Madhvi. She then appeared in the 2006 low-budget comedy Pyare Mohan opposite Vivek Oberoi The movie was not well received by critics; Rajeev Masand wrote, “Amrita hit career lows, producing the low-fashion chemistry”.
Although highly regarded for her acting abilities, Rao’s films to date had often not appealed to a wide audience. Vivah (2006) made her a national star; it depicted the journey of two individuals from engagement to marriage. Co-starring alongside Shahid Kapoor, Rao portrayed Poonam, a traditionally raised young woman. The film was given mixed reviews by most critics but became one of the highest-grossing films of the year, as well as Rao’s biggest commercial success to date. Taran Adarsh wrote, “Amrita Rao gets a new lease of life with Vivah. She looks the character and is splendid all through.” At the 13th Star Screen Award, Rao received a Best Actress nomination.
Rao was cast alongside Mahesh Babu in the 2007 Telugu action film Athidhi. The film was directed and co-written by Surender Reddy. She played the girlfriend of Mahesh’s character. She received mostly positive reviews, with critics praising the chemistry between Rao and Mahesh Babu. Rediff noted, “Amrita Rao, who makes her debut in Telugu films, makes a mark. Other critics, such as Sify wrote that, “Amrita Rao is not only beautiful but also glamorous. She has proved that she could be yet another native girl for Tollywood. She emoted well with convincing histrionics fit for Telugu screen.”
In 2008, she appeared in the drama film My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves opposite newcomer Nikhil Dwivedi. She played Riya, an orphan who lives a middle-class lifestyle in Mumbai and works as an assistant director for a movie producer. The film received overwhelmingly negative reviews and performed poorly at the box office. Rao’s performance was praised by some critics; OneIndia Entertainment noted, “Amrita Rao looks gorgeous, but her role isn’t substantial enough.” She took a guest appearance as Nirja Rathore in Shaurya in 2008, a film which revolves around the court-martial of a Muslim officer in the Indian army, for shooting his commanding officer. The film is set against the backdrop of the Kashmir Conflict in Northern India. Mainly inspired from the Hollywood movie A Few Good Men, Shaurya received positive reviews from the critics, and the film did average business at the box-office.
In 2008, Rao appeared in her third blockbuster, Shyam Benegal’s comedy film Welcome to Sajjanpur. She played the role of Kamala, a woman who is desperate for communication from her husband Bansiram (Kunal Kapoor), a labourer at a dockyard in Mumbai. The film tells the story of several villagers, including a child widow, an abandoned wife, a harried mother, a corrupt neta (leader), a romantic compounder, and their serious and mischievous problems. The film received positive reviews and earned ₹20 million (US$280,000), making it the second-highest-grossing film in Rao’s career. Hindustan Times noted, “Amrita Rao is sweetness personified.” She received the very first Stardust Searchlight Award for Best Actress for her performance.
Rao starred with Harman Baweja in Victory, an Indian cricket-based sports film which focuses on a struggling cricketer who defies all odds to realize an almost impossible dream. The film received generally mixed reviews from critics, and Rao garnered acclaim for her performance as Herman’s childhood friend Nandini. The film faced competition from other films such Raaz 2 and Dev D and failed to do well. With a huge budget, it only managed to gross ₹1 crore (US$140,000) and was declared a disaster by Boxoffice-India.That same year, Rao took on the lead role in Neeraj Vora’s comedy-drama Short Kut: The Con is On opposite Akshaye Khanna, produced by Anil Kapoor. The film stars Rao as Mansi, the girlfriend of Akshaye’s character. Critical response towards the comedy film was negative and, though having grossed its budget back, it was considered a financial disappointment.
Rao’s only film of 2011 was Love U…Mr. Kalakaar! and her second movie under Rajshri Productions. She was generally praised for her physical performance, but the movie generated mostly negative reviews and became a commercial failure. Nikhat Kazmi of The Times of India wrote, “Amrita Rao at best, but the film is so predictable and so long, it loses impact.” Rao has also made special appearances in Heyy Babyy (2007), Life Partner (2007) and Jaane Kahan Se Aayi Hai (2010).
After a two-and-a-half-year absence from the screen, Rao starred in the national award-winning, courtroom, comedy drama film Jolly LLB (2013). She played the lead role of Sandhya, girlfriend of Arshad Warsi’s character. The film received mixed reviews and won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Hindi and the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actor. Rao’s performance was praised.Rao co-starred alongside Sunny Deol in the action film Singh Saab the Great (2013), which was directed by Anil Sharma. Rao portrays a journalist Shikha Chaturvedi. The film was controversial and ran into trouble with the SGPC, which objected to its title. The film was largely panned by critics but Rao’s performance earned positive reviews. Namrta Joshi of Outlook said, “Amrita Rao plays a role that definitely feels like something she has already done, all the emotional support”. The film received predominately negative reviews but was a moderate box-office success with revenues of ₹29 crore (US$4.1 million).
Later that year, she appeared alongside Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal and Manoj Bajpai in Prakash Jha’s political drama Satyagraha. Rao played the role of Sumitra, the daughter-in-law of Amitabh Bachchan’s character. Rao was praised in particular; Resham Sengar of Zee News wrote, “Ms. Rao has the sweetly cherubic looks. She is convincing in most of the emotional scenes. But again, her scope of performance is just limited to mouthing a few important dialogues.” The film was poorly received by critics and failed to make a profit at the box office. Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV said, “Satyagraha spares no effort to reflect the rising tide of public anger against a creaking, corrupt and callous system that treats citizens of the country like a load of dirt. The script draws inspiration from several real-life scams and political shenanigans, and constructs a predictable narrative that underlines the undeniable might of social media.” Despite having moderate reviews, the film grossed over ₹60 crore (US$8.4 million) at the domestic box office. She is also featuring in the TV show Meri Awaaz Hi Pehchaan Hai on &TV, a re-telling of the famous Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle rivalry where Rao is playing Lata’s character.
Rao describes her family as a “very conservative family—a traditional, Hindu, Indian family” and herself as very liberal. She married her boyfriend, Anmol, a Radio Jockey after 7 years of dating on 15 May 2016 in Mumbai.. She comes from a Konkani-speaking family.