Shah Rukh, Sharmila inaugurate 17th Kolkata film fest

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, a host of Bengali film personalities, including top star Prosenjit Chatterjee, and delegates from across the country and abroad, as also creme de la creme of the culture-loving city were present at the Netaji Indoor Stadium to attend the opening of the KFF -- the second oldest international film festival in the country.

Expressing his gratefulness to the state government for the invitation, Shah Rukh called the state the country’s cultural, literary and artistic hub.  “I want to thank Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, ‘Didi’ as she is called…as a matter of fact I truly believe that if the history of our arts, culture, poetry, film making, writing is to be written it would not only be incomplete it would actually not ever begin if it wasn’t for the state of West Bengal,” the superstar said.

“This is really the cultural, literary, artistic hub of the country,” said Shah Rukh. Around 150 movies, offering a heady mix of socio-communicational themes and popular entertainment from 50 countries, are slated to be screened at the festival spread across 11 venues and having a budget of Rs.2.75 crore.

Sharmila turned nostalgic as she described Kolkata as the city where he was born, studied and also met her late husband Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi.  Lauding the KFF, she said it would help Kolkata become a very important centre for international films.

“The ability to speak eloquently with the world and the home is what really makes best for the cinema and this is what the film festival forum provides,” said Sharmila while addressing the programme at the packed 12,000-seat stadium.

Recalling the contribution of film maestros Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal, Ritwik Ghatak, Debaki Bose and acting legends Uttam Kumar and Ashok Kumar, the chief minister said the presence of a galaxy of stars showed the appeal of the festival. She also thanked Turkish movie maker Nuri Bilge Ceylan for attending the festival despite the earthquake back home.

The colourful programme began with Rabindra Sangeet tunes played by the Kolkata Music Academy Chamber Orchestra, and ended with the screening of the inaugural film "The Magician" by director Joram Lursen from the Netherlands.

There are many firsts attached to this edition of the KFF.  For the first time, the fest, concluding Nov 17, has a competitive section, a big dash of Bollywood glamour, screenings at a multiplex and the inaugural event at the Netaji Indoor Stadium instead of the Nandan Film Complex, which has been the nerve centre of the event since its inception in 1995.

It was also the maiden KFF organised by the Mamata Banerjee regime after the political change in the state. Her predecessor Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the moving force behind the festival till last year, for the first time stayed away from the gala. The notable films include French director Jean-Luc Godard's 2010 release "Film Socialisme" and Hungarian director Bela Tarr's latest offering "The Turin Horse".

There will be a retrospective of Japanese director Shohei Imamura, with a centenary tribute for Bollywood great Ashok Kumar, whose birth centenary is being celebrated this year.  Special tribute sections feature Bengal's greatest matinee idol Uttam Kumar and noted director Mani Kaul.

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