The Cannes Film Festival, the most prestigious film festival in the world, is like a second home to Aishwarya. Be it for her representing her films such as Devdas, Bride and Prejudice, Provoked, Guru, etc., inaugurating the festival, attending as a member of the prestigious jury or as a part of the L’Oreal Paris dream team, Cannes has become synonymous with Aishwarya. The Princess of Cannes, as the French media often refers to her, Aishwarya has completed ten glorious years at the festival. Though a target of criticism over her fashion choices in the initial years, Aishwarya is now known as a style diva with every appearance of hers being widely watched and discussed and often making it into the best dressed lists of the year.
In 2002, Devdas became the first Indian feature film to be screened at the prestigious Cannes film festival. The screening was met with a thunderous response and the leading lady of the film, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was highly appreciated. Post release, it became a huge critical and commercial success and garnered her instant recognition worldwide. Aishwarya left such an unforgettable impression that the French invited her to be a part of the jury for the following year’s festival. She became the first Indian actor to be a jury member at the festival. And with this her journey at Cannes got off to a special start.
In 2003, Aishwarya become the first Indian actor to be on the coveted jury of the festival. This raised several eyebrows back home as to how she was chosen when there were far more experienced actors in the India, to which Christian Jeune, a Senior official at Cannes responded saying she was a known face in Cannes and all over the world and the response to her film Devdas at the previous year’s festival was “absolutely fantastic” and there was no reason for her not to be on the jury.
In April 2003, she became the first Indian to be part of L’Oréal dream team and signed on as their new international brand ambassador. The company is one of the official sponsors of the festival and hence, from 2004 onwards, she became a regular at the festival. That year, Aishwarya also attended Cine Classics ribbon cutting and released the first edition of “Film India Worldwide” magazine with a still of herself from Rituparna Ghosh’s acclaimed film “Raincoat” on the cover.
In 2005, Aishwarya sashayed down the world famous Croisette accompanied by her parents. That year was extremely special not just because she was invited as the L’Oréal brand ambassador but also because she was provided the huge honour of opening the festival, also a first for an Indian.
In 2006, Aishwarya’s movie “Provoked” got a special screening at the festival. The film depicted the true story of Kiranjeet Ahluwalia (played by Aishwarya), a battered Indian woman living in the UK who killed her own husband, unable to bear more violence, and was ultimately set free. The screening got a standing ovation and Aishwarya received critical appreciation for her performance from the international press. After watching the film, Kiranjeet turned to Aishwarya and said “That was me,” which Aishwarya believes is the best compliment she received for the film. Also, in a press-meet of the movie, Aishwarya confessed that she too had been a victim of domestic violence in the past.
2007 was a special year for Aishwarya because she walked the red carpet hand-in-hand with her new husband, actor Abhishek Bachchan. They attended the festival in the midst of their honeymoon, so Aishwarya stayed just for a day, and even gave a miss to the screenings of her critically acclaim film Guru and the launch of the teaser for the magnum opus Jodhaa Akbar.
In 2008, Aishwarya attended the festival with husband Abhishek and her in laws Amitabh and Jaya. On being asked why the whole family was there Amitabh Bachchan said “We are here to be with Aishwarya who is here in an official capacity as brand ambassador for L’Oreal. We went to the opening with her and a few films together, but mostly it is to be with family because we have all been away from each other for a long time in different parts of the world. Its lovely to just be together and catch up, before we drift away to our respective schedules.”
In 2009, Aishwarya not only attended movie premieres with her husband Abhishek, but also took part in an event for social and humanitarian causes. Aishwarya, alongside other guests graced the International Tribunes Cinema Verite event. Cinema Verite is a special film event dedicated to films and social actions that promote human rights and the eight Millennium Development Goals adopted by the United Nations. In past years Hollywood actresses like Susan Sarandon, Meg Ryan, Ellen Birkin and Sharon Stone took part in this cause. Aishwarya become the first non-Hollywood actress to lend her name to the same cause. Cinema Verite event included a special focus on India with the screening of Ram Gopal Varma’s hit and acclaimed film “Sarkar Raj”, starring Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya and Abhishek in leading roles.
In 2010, Aishwarya walked the red carpet as the L’Oreal brand ambassador and also did her duty as actress and promoted one of her most anticipated movies of that year, Raavan directed by Mani Ratnam. Reliance Big Pictures organised the day-long programme which started with a photo-call on Majestic Beach, press meet, showcase of show reel of the movie and ended with a creme de la creme party at Carlton Hotel.
In 2011, Aishwarya completed ten years of her association with Cannes & representing L’Oréal Paris as a member of its dream team. Officials from L’Oreal said, “It means a lot to L’Oréal Paris to celebrate those wonderful years with Aishwarya at Cannes. It has been years of glamour, infinite beauty, but above all; sincere respect and mutual admiration. A true match, as we sometimes say at L’Oréal.” This year also showcased a Bollywood documentary called “The Greatest Love Story Ever Told” in which Aishwarya took part & discussed Bollywood films along with other Bollywood celebrities.