Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan on Saturday called for restoring old Bengali films on a war footing and urged the industry and the public to come together in building a movement on the issue.
Delivering his inaugural speech at the opening ceremony of the 24th Kolkata International Film Festival here, Bachchan also expressed his happiness at the West Bengal government’s initiative.
“If we don’t take urgent steps, in hundred years very few Bengali films will be left to celebrate. We must save a hundred Bengali films. This works should be taken up on a war footing. The film industry and public should come together and join this movement,” Bachchan said as the capacity crowd at the Netaji Indoor stadium listened to him in rapt attention.
Bachchan said it was heartening that the state government has entered into an agreement with the Film Heritage Foundation for training 60 resource personnel.
Calling cinema an important part of Bengal’s cultural ethos, he said the state produced some of the greatest film directors over decades, with great works and accolades in numerous international film festivals.
“As we celebrate the 100 years of Bengali Cinema, there is a need to talk about those who work behind the scenes of these celebrated film productions, accomplished technicians and creative minds that are never truly given their due.”
“Depending on what your job is you are doing your part to get a shot ready. In all probability the camera caretakers are busy loading the film in the camera, the makeup and hair stylists are getting the actors ready in the makeup room and so on.”
He said very few movie enthusiasts were aware that several famous directors began their careers on very humble circumstances working behind the scenes almost unknown and unrecognised, he said.
To buttress his point, Bachchan referred to celebrated director Bimal Roy who entered the cinema world as a camera assistant, while another famous film maker Rishikesh Mukherjee began working initially as a cameraman and then as a film editor.
Similarly, the legendary actor-director Guru Dutt struggled as a telephone operator at the Lever Brothers factory in (erstwhile) Calcutta.
Turning to contemporary filmmakers, he said Rajkumar Hirani slogged away as a film editor, Sanjay Leela Bhansali started as an assistant to Vidhu Vinod Chopra, and Farah Khan was a choreographer for several years before becoming a director.
Bachchan said many top stars began their careers as faceless assistants.
“The star kids work as assistants to learn the art of filmmaking. Hrithik Roshan assisted his father (Rakesh Roshan) in four films, Siddharth Malhotra and Varun Dhawan worked as assistant director to Karan Johar for ‘My name is Khan’. Parineeti Chopra was an unknown marketing intern in Yash Raj Film studio.”
He said while Satyajit Ray’s films are applauded for the craftsmanship and content, the contribution of cinematographer Subrata Mitra cannot be undermined.
He said a film unit extends much beyond the stars, the director and the producer.
“There is the clapper boy, sound mixer, boom operator, the gaffer, the special effect supervisor and so on,” he added.