As Aishwarya Rai walked up the steps of the Theatre Grand Lumiere on the opening night of the Cannes Film Festival, it was apparent that the parade of Bollywood stars on the French Riviera would be stronger than it has ever been before.
Aishwarya, a Cannes red carpet regular, was at the opening night yet again yesterday but this time with hubby Abhishek Bachchan by her side.
Media reports in India had suggested that Aishwarya, who first walked up the red carpet in 2002 for a special screening of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas, might skip Cannes this year because she would be busy shooting for Ashutosh Gowarikers Jodha Akbar.
But as a brand ambassador for French cosmetics giant L'Oreal, one of the official partners of the film festival, she was contract-bound to make it to Cannes. The Bollywood diva took a week off from her Jodha Akbar dates to be on the Croisette.
Aishwarya and Abhishek will be in attendance when Mani Ratnam's box-office hit Guru is screened on Sunday afternoon in the Tous les Cinemas du Monde as part of a special focus on Indian cinema.
Also present at the opening night ceremony was Preity Zinta, in Cannes for the second year running to promote luxury watch and jewellery manufacturer Chopard.
John Abraham and Bipasha Basu are expected to land here on Thursday to promote Vivek Agnihotris Goal, a film about an Asian soccer league team shot for the most part in London.
Goal is on the slate of films that UTV Motion Pictures has brought to Cannes this year. The biggest Bollywood star of them all, Amitabh Bachchan, will be in Cannes for the first time to promote Cheeni Kum, helmed by advertising executive and debutant director Balki.
His imminent arrival has aroused keen interest among the media here. Cheeni Kum, which co-stars Tabu, will be screened in the Cannes Film Market.