The 24th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) got under way in the eastern metropolis on Saturday. The festival was inaugurated at the Netaji Indoor Stadium in the presence of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and a galaxy of stars from Hindi and Bengali film industry. Both the CM and film director Mahesh Bhatt stressed on “unity in diversity” being the essence of India during the inauguration of 24th KIFF.
“We are at a time when the world is in need of glue to hold us together…. India is a diverse country and its essence lies in unity in diversity,” said Bhatt, who attended the festival for the second time.
Hitting out at the Opposition, Miss Banerjee said that many people question the reason behind holding such festivals. “Why should we not celebrate? Should people remain unhappy? What is the harm in being happy? Celebrations are for all… There should be competition. If you want you can fight but quit if you can’t. Don’t criticise,” said Miss Banerjee in the presence of a galaxy of stars. Miss Banerjee said that next year, the state government would celebrate the 25th KIFF in a gala manner.
It will be somewhat like Cannes Film Festival, she said, adding that the event may be held in Salt Lake Stadium so that one lakh people can celebrate it. She sought suggestions and guidelines from Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan on celebrating the occasion in a befitting manner and said that preparations should start from this year.
“Earlier the film festival used to be held in Nandan where only 100 to 500 people could attend it. I started the function at Netaji Indoor Stadium so that 20,000 people can celebrate the occasion together. Nowhere in the world can so many people watch a film together,” she said.
Welcoming the guests, Miss Banerjee said: “The special attraction at this year’s KIFF is 100 years of Bengali cinema. I welcome all guests and cinema lovers to the City of Joy.”
Bengal brand ambassador Shah Rukh Khan’s Zero was screened at the event. Khan said that he regrets not getting a National Award and he adds none of his films has ever been screened at any film festival of this stature. However, he added that Zero was a special film. Bachchan who inaugurated the festival lauded the efforts of the state government in taking up the initiative for restoration of Bengali film classics.
“Our country has produced unforgettable films of very high quality. However many of these film prints have gone in flames for want of proper infrastructure and maintenance of old prints over time. I am thankful to Mamata Di (Mamata Banerjee) and her government in taking up the cause of restoration and tying up with Film Heritage Foundation (FHF) founded by Shivendra Singh Dungarpur that has identified as many as 100 Bengali films that are in urgent need of preservation and restoration,” Bachchan said.
“Here we are celebrating 100 years of Bengali cinema but it makes me sad when I find it is always the director and the lead actors who get the credit and applause for a film’s success. We should also acknowledge the hard efforts of the technicians like makeup artists, spot boys, assistant directors, choreographers, costume designers without whom the film would not have received any credit,” he said.
He cited examples of a host of directors and actors who began their career behind the scene and went on to become a force to reckon with not only in India but also in world cinema.
Among other Bollywood stars attending the function included Jaya Bachchan, Waheeda Rehman and Nandita Das.
Australia is this year’s ‘focus country’. Celebrated Iranian director Majid Majidi and Australian filmmakers Philip Noyce, Jill Bilcock and Simon Baker were the guests of honour. Antony Firingee, the 1967 Bengali classic, starring Uttam Kumar and Tanuja, was the inaugural movie.
Dada Saheb Phalke Awardee, Soumitra Chatterjee was also present on the dais. More than 300 films, including feature films, shorts and documentaries, will be screened in 16 theatres across the city and Howrah.
A film directory chronicling the major films made during the period of 1917-2017 was launched by Bachchan at the festival to mark 100 years of Bengali cinema. Fourteen Bengali classics have also been selected by the jury for screening at the eight-day event.
Films by Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, among others will be screened at the festival