A history of saris on the Cannes red carpet, from Shabana Azmi to Deepika Padukone

The traditional drape has made appearances over the years at one of the world's most prestigious film festivals

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“The sari is a story I will never stop telling. No matter where we are in the world, it has its place,” fashion designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee said last week, after jury member Deepika Padukone turned heads with her traditional look on the opening night of the Cannes Film Festival.

Padukone wore a hand embroidered sari from the designer's Aakash Tara collection that he says “celebrates heritage Indian crafts and techniques through a modern lens”.

While Padukone received praise for her striking display of her heritage, the sari has over the years made many appearances on the red carpet at one of the world's most prestigious events.

A few days before the festival began, acclaimed Indian actress Shabana Azmi shared an interesting anecdote about the power of the sari at Cannes from 1976 — perhaps the first time the sari made an appearance at the event.

Azmi was at the festival along with her co-star, actress Smita Patil, as well as director Shyam Benegal, to promote their film Nishant, which was competing for the Palm d'Or.

“We had no publicity material and no money, so Shyam Benegal asked Smita Patil and me to wear our best saris and walk up and down the promenade to attract attention,” Azmi wrote on Instagram, posting a black-and-white photo.

“And when people turned around to stare at these strange looking exotic creatures we would persuasively plead 'Our film is showing on so-and-so date pls come to watch it', and we managed a full house! That was the advertising acumen of Shyam Benegal.”

Since then, a number of stars have made a fashion statement with the sari, from actress Sharmila Tagore's regal appearance as jury member in 2009 to Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's statement-making ensembles over the years, and Sonam Kapoor Ahuja's experimental looks.

Padukone, too, has worn a sari before, a gold and ivory Rohit Bal number, when she walked the Cannes red carpet for the first time in 2010.

But Mukherjee seems to be the designer of choice for most stars, having dressed everyone from Rai Bachchan to Vidyan Balan, Kangana Ranaut and this year Padukone and Aditi Rao Hydari.

Scroll through the gallery above for times stars impressed in a sari on the Cannes red carpet.

Updated: May 24, 2022, 11:26 AM