Kolkata Film Festival: Much ado about nothing?

Kolkata, Nov 18 (IANS) While its organisers may make tall claims, the 18th Kolkata International Film Festival turned out be a drab affair in stark contrast to the glamour heavy inaugural ceremony.

The festival, which over the years had attracted eminent cinematic names from around the globe such as Krysztof Zanussi and Fernando Solanas, found itself deprived of the cult figures including home−grown greats.

Legendary names from Bengali cinema world such as actor Soumitra Chatterjee and director Buddhadeb Dasgupta, otherwise regulars at the fest, preferred to give the Nov 10−17 event a miss, while eminent filmmaker Mrinal Sen just made a cameo appearance on the penultimate day.

Though Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, during the opening ceremony, claimed the presence of over 2,000 foreign delegates, actual turnout was not even one percent of that figure.

"There were 20 foreign delegates at the fest while the Indian contingent comprised 40 delegates," KIFF chairman Ranjit Mallick said.

The high dose of Bollywood exemplified by the presence of stars Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Mithun Chakraborty and Katrina Kaif with a host of leading Bengali film personalities at the inaugural ceremony did create some flutter initially.

But as days passed, the low glamour quotient was palpable with most of the stars from state's film industry giving it a miss.

Also, none of the country's famed filmmakers from outside Bengal −− a regular in previous editions −− turned up, taking the sheen off the much touted seminars and media meets where often the standards of speakers on the dais fell short of the level expected in international film festivals.

With most of the movies being screened once, many questioned the screening schedule.

The frequent rescheduling of the movies without proper notice left many disgruntled. There were also some who also put a question mark on the quality of the movies shown.

"Except for the Academy Award winning 'Nader and Simin: A Separation' and a few by Michael Cacoyannis, there were not many films that one would die to watch," said a veteran movie buff.

"I missed the screening of 'Cheekha' and I wanted to watch it badly but thanks to the organisers I will have to wait till its release," said a young visitor after missing out on the Tom Alter movie that was screened only once.

Not only visitors, even mediapersons had a tough time covering the event with organisers scheduling important events simultaneously at different venues.

On the brighter side though, the screening of classics inside a special tent to give a feel of watching film in a bygone era was a hit and so was the 'Big Story' segment which gave people the chance to catch seven of Amitabh Bachchan's hits on the big screen again.

Was the latest edition of the fest really "historic and the world's best" as Banerjee claimed or did it leave much to be desired? The answer is not far to seek.

(Anurag Dey can be contacted at deyvil@gmail.com)

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