Kolkata film fest dawns amid starry night

Kolkata, Nov 10 (IANS) Glamour partnered politics as Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan came together with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to inaugurate the 18th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) here Saturday.

Bachchan, Shah Rukh and Banerjee led the ceremonial lamp lighting as veterans from Bengali cinema followed suit.

Bollywood stars Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma, Mithun Chakrabarty and their counterparts from the Bengali film industry, delegates from India and abroad as well as the creme de la creme of the culture-loving city were at the Netaji Indoor Stadium to attend the opening of KIFF, the second oldest international film festival of India.

The opening ceremony began with an orchestral performance by Debajyoti Mishra, whose troupe presented a melodious medley of evergreen Hindi and Bengali songs punctuated with some unforgettable Rabindra Sangeet.

As the band sung the ever-inspiring "Ekla chalo re", both Bachchan and Anushka Sharma were seen singing along. Amitabh had sung the song in the Bollywood film "Kahaani".

Bachchan started his speech in Bengali, saying: "Ami Bangla bolchi, ahsa kori apni bhujte parben (I am speaking in Bengali, I hope you understand)."

He soon switched to English, saying "Aar parchi na (can't do it anymore)" as he praised the city and its dwellers.

Next was Shah Rukh Khan, also the state's brand ambassador. He said: "What brings me every time to Kolkata is the energy and enthusiasm of Mamata Banerjee. I don't know if I should say this but she packs a big punch in a little package. With her energy and enthusiasm she always gets things moving."

Banerjee, along with paying homage to the industry greats who passed away this year, said the state could be a bridge between national and international cinema.

"There should be a bridge between Hollywood, Bollywood and Tollywood (Bengali film industry) and hopefully Bengal will play a role in building that bridge. I invite all international and national filmmakers to come here," she said.

The event culminated with a dance performance by 48 prisoners from Kolkata. The eight-minute dance drama, an excerpt from Rabindranath Tagore's "Valmiki Pratibha", was directed by dancer and choreographer Alakananda Roy.

Around 189 movies from 60 countries are slated to be screened at the festival spread across 11 venues with a budget of Rs.3 crore.

The opening movie of the festival was Iranian director Asghar Farhidi's "A Separation". The first Iranian movie to win the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, it focuses on an Iranian middle-class couple who separate, and the conflicts that arise when the husband hires a lower-class caretaker for his elderly father, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

The fest will end Nov 17.