With China as the focus country, the 22nd edition of the Kolkata International Film Festival was thrown open Friday in the presence of a galaxy of Bollywood stars led by Amitabh Bachchan and state’s brand ambassador Shah Rukh Khan. A visibly overwhelmed Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the festival without the presence of the Bachchans, the festival would have remained incomplete. “It is his festival and not ours,” she said pointing at Bachchan.
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The CM also recollected her early days as a Member of Parliament when Bachchan and the late Sunil Dutt too were members of the House. Referring to Shah Rukh as the “free ambassador of Bengal” she said, “Both Shah Rukh and Kajol must come next time with their spouse and children.”
Shah Rukh regaled the audience at the Netaji Indoor Stadium by reading out a few lines in Bangla while Bachchan gave a speech on the role of women in Indian cinema, but ended by reciting the poem “Tu chal tere wajood ki samay ko bhi talaash hai” from his latest hit film “Pink”. Earlier, Jaya Bachchan said that when two members of the same family were on stage the audience should decide who they wanted to listen to. “I am the daughter. You can listen to me anytime. I think we should listen to ‘jamaibabu’ this time,” she quipped.
“Last year I requested Mamata ‘didi’ to not call me again this year as I have run out of ideas for giving long speeches. But I had to come as you know that Mamata ‘di’ doesn’t relent on any matter,” megastar Bachchan said. Actress Kajol said that the enthusiasm shown by the people in the festival proves that there are only two things —- religion and cinema —- in India that people revere.
Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt said the city enjoyed a special place in his heart because his mother was born here. He praised Mamata Banerjee saying it was she who had stood by her during his hard times.
Tollywood director Gautam Ghosh touched upon the “prevailing intolerance in the country in all areas – religious, political and cultural” and said that cinema over the years has united people.
It was for the first time that a Bengali film “The Song of Life” by Abhijit Guha and Sudeshna Roy was chosen as the opening film of the eight-day-long carnival of cinema from across the world organised by the West Bengal government. Altogether 156 films from 65 countries will be screened at 13 venues in the city.
This year a new competitive category has been added to the festival. Award for Innovations in Moving Images will be given to encourage new ideas and new concepts, to pioneer a change in the realm of cinema.