Come May, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan will be packing for the French Riviera. This will be her 10th consecutive year at the Cannes Film Festival. “I didn’t realise I was so close to completing a decade till someone pointed out to me last year, that I’d been coming to the fest for nine years. Abhishek (husband Abhishek Bachchan) wondered if any other celebrity had enjoyed such a long, straight run at Cannes,” she smiles.
Her first appearance was in 2002 with her Devdas director, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and co-star Shah Rukh Khan to promote the love story. The following year, she not only became the first Indian actor to be on the Cannes jury, Aishwarya also became the global brand ambassador of L’Oreal, alongside Andie Macdowell, Eva Longoria and Penelope Cruz.
It was a rare honour for the former Miss World who, that year, topped a poll conducted by UK’s Hello magazine for ‘The Most Attractive Woman Of The Year’ and appeared on the cover of Time magazine’s Asia edition as one of the “100 Most Influential People In The World”. Surprisingly though, her appearance at the Dogville premiere, in a green sari and chappals, was deemed a fashion disaster.
Fashionistas ripped apart her wardrobe, make-up and hair on other occasions too. However, that hasn’t dimmed her popularity abroad. “People remember the Miss World title even after 17 years. Among my films, the most-watched are Devdas (2002) and Bride & Prejudice (2003),” says Aishwarya, who, despite rumours of being replaced, is all set to return to Cannes as L’Oreal’s international face.
“It’s been almost a decade-long association with L’Oreal, and a 12-year tenure with Longines. There’s a lot of love there, and when the time comes, I know the parting will be good. For now, the tenure continues,” she asserts. In 2009, there was talk of Sonam Kapoor, who also endorses the same cosmetic brand, walking the red carpet with Aishwarya, Eva and Michelle Yeoh. But Aishwarya apparently put her foot down, pointing out that she was the international face of the brand while Sonam was only its Indian face. She had the spotlight on her at the premiere of Pedro Almadovar’s Broken Embrace.
Over the years, she has been spotted at other premieres at Cannes. In 2007, a month after her wedding, she showed up with husband Abhishek for the opening night gala of My Blueberry Nights. In 2008, the couple was accompanied by Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan at the screening of Woody Allen’s Vicky Christina Barcelona.
This year, she’s on a break and Abhishek is busy with shoots. But he is trying to work out his dates so they can make one more “together” appearance at Cannes that has inspired other Hollywood actors to show up with their husbands too.