Amid showbiz greats including Shah Rukh Khan and Iranian director Majid Majidi, Amitabh Bachchan on Saturday inaugurated the 24th Kolkata international Film Festival, delivering a stirring speech saluting those working behind the scenes.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee promised to “put up something like Cannes” in 2019, when the event completes 25 years.
A lively and cheerful crowd of over ten thousand was present at the Netaji Indoor stadium, where the inaugural show was a heady brew of glamour, glitz, nostalgia, fun and some serious talk on cinema.
Bachchan, who has been inaugurating the fest over the last few years, did the honours this time as well by lighting the lamp. Leading Bengali actress Rituparna Sengupta was the ‘thali girl’.
With the festival this year celebrating 100 years of Bengali cinema, Bengali film legends from different eras like Soumitra Chatterjee, Madhabi Mukhopadyay, Sabitri Chatterjee, Biswajit Chatterjee and Ranjit Mallick were seated at the dais.
A directory on 100 years of Bangla cinema, put together by the state’s Information and Cultural Affairs Department, was released by Bachchan during the function.
Bachchan said filmmaking was a team effort, where every member, big or small, had a key role to play.
“Sadly, it is noticed that as the film ends and the credits roll, the audience gets up and leaves the theatre,” he said.
Underscoring the importance of movies, he said: “They trigger something special by provoking a variety of emotions. Films can become a reflection of collective dreams where we look to something much larger than ourselves, hold our breath and suspend our beliefs…”
“Today, I take this opportunity to salute all those working tirelessly behind the scenes, from the hardworking spot boys to the highly talented specialists who keep these dreams alive and contribute to making our movies so immensely popular,” he said.
Bachchan ended his speech by saying that nothing was more potent than the intoxication of good cinema.
Film director Mahesh Bhatt said that the narrative of India cannot be reduced to one colour. He said the plurality of a diverse country like India needed to be celebrated, and underlined the importance of events like the KIFF that commits itself only to the idea of India which says all make it together or none of us makes it.
“In this changing, shifting times, I believe that the filmmakers and storytellers will hold the world together. It is the occasion to realise that one of us is much lesser than all of us,” Bhatt added.
The trailer of Shah Rukh Khan’s upcoming film ‘Zero’ was screened at the inaugural.
Khan, who is also West Bengal’s brand ambassador, welcomed the delegates and technicians, and echoed Bhatt as he said that there is something which is making us all extremely divisive.
“Like Bhatt saab said, I am sure everyone believes that in a world which is getting so much closer with technology and accessories, there is something which is making us all extremely divisive.
“And the only thing that can bring us together is one or the other form of art, whether it is classical music, whether it is hip-hop, jazz, ballet, Kathakali, but I think the thing which brings us closest to all of us is cinema.”
‘Antony Firingee’, a 1967 Bengali musical drama with Uttam Kumar and Tanuja in the lead, was the inaugural film.
As many as 171 feature films, and 150 short films and documentaries from 70 countries would be screened until the festival concludes on November 17.