Stars win Bengalis hearts
Deep down in the Kolkattans' hearts, there was a tinge of dismay about the fact that Bollywood's superstars, including Amitabh Bachchan and his family and Shahrukh Khan, outshone the stars of Tollywood at the glitzy opening ceremony of the 20th edition of Kolkata Int'l Film Festival on the evening of November 10 at Netaji Indoor Stadium.
In a way, perhaps, it is understandable that the dazzle of Bollywood with its pan-India appeal is bound to be more than that of the regional Indian language cinema industry.
However, quite a bit of that disappointment of many was addressed when Shahrukh, who considers Kolkata as his second home, and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan regaled the audience by speaking in Bangla.
"Kolkata aamar praner shahar. Kolkata film festival aamar praner utsav. Chalo sobai miley eta ke safal kori", wafted the Bollywood 'badshah'.
For her part, Aishwarya said "aamader poribarer proti apnader ashirvad bhlaobashar jonyo onek onek dhonyobaad (thank you for the love and affection that you have showered on our family)."
Amitabh Bachchan said he is proud that all members of his family, including wife Jaya, son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya, have acted in films directed by some well-known Bengali directors.
He left the audience in splits as he recounted an old story of how a Bengali zamindar forgot to bring back his 'dhoti while trying to bring back the 'chadar' his wife gave him before going to a courtesan.
For her part, Jaya, whose first big break in commercial cinema came in Bengali film "Dhonni Meye" along with Uttam Kumar, said coming to the Kolkata film festival with her whole family was like coming to a family function.
An orchestra led by percussionist Bickram Ghosh, singer Usha Uthup and classical vocalist Ustad Rashid Khan presented a musical collage of Hindi, Bengali and English films like “Mughal-e-Azam”, “Sound of Music”, “Sholay”, “Titanic” and “Goope Gayne Bagha Byne”.
On the occasion, a CD compilation of songs celebrating 100 years of Bengali film music was also released.
Besides the NETPAC Award section for Asian films, the film festival has for the first time introduced a competitive section for films made by women directors from 13 countries.
Australian filmmaker Paul Cox and Bollywood actor-director Amol Palekar would be part of an international jury which will judge the best film carrying a cash prize of Rs 51 lakh.
The best director would be felicitated with a statuette of “The Royal Bengal Tiger Award” which was unveiled by Shahrukh and Amitabh.
A special tribute would be paid to legendary actress Suchitra Sen with screenings of seven of her works like “Devdas”, “Andhi” and an exhibition on her contribution to cinema.