Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan have today inaugurated the 18th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF).
Acknowledging the contribution of West Bengal in cinema, literature, art and culture, the actors, who flew down from Mumbai at the personal request of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, told a packed stadium that they were privileged and honoured to be the part of the ceremony.
Bachchan, 70, amidst loud applause, started off by speaking in Bengali and ended reciting a stanza from Rabindranath Tagore's poem 'Banglar Mati Banglar Jol'.
Khan, 47, the brand ambassador of the state, told the audience of around 15,000-20,000 people, "What brings me every time to Kolkata is the energy and enthusiasm of Mamata Banerjee."
Taking the glamour quotient of the festival up, Khan's 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan' co-actors Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma, besides Mithun Chakraborty, and the who's who of the Bengali film industry were present at the inauguration.
Bengali music composer Debajyoti Mishra led an orchestra which presented a melodious medley of evergreen Hindi and Bengali songs including Rabindra Sangeet.
Organised by the information and cultural affairs department of the West Bengal government, the eight-day festival will screen 189 films from 60 countries in 40 languages at twelve venues across the metropolis.
Kolkata remains cultural capital of India: Big B
Acknowledging the role of Bengal in Indian cinema, legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan today said the contribution of Bengal, which remained the cultural capital of India, to Indian cinema was enormous.
Bachchan, 70, along with actors Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma inaugurated the 18th Kolkata International Film Festival.
"The contribution made by Bengal to Indian cinema has been absolutely enormous. Eminent directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Bimal Roy, Nitin Bose started their careers from Kolkata before moving to Mumbai," Bachchan, 70, said.
The actor said Bengali cinema produced some of the finest artists in India and continued to influence generations of film-makers, recalling how cinematic giants like P C Barua, Prithviraj Kapoor and K S Saigal received prominence working with the New Theatres studio of Kolkata.
"The thirties and forties were the heydays for films made as much in Mumbai as in Kolkata. The contributions made from this region has been immense," said the megastar.
Bachchan started his speech in Bengali and has also recited a stanza from Rabindranath Tagore's poem 'Banglar Mati Banglar Jol'. He later shifted to English for masses to comprehend.
He said with novels like Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's 'Devdas' Bengali literature provided a rich and fertile ground for many screenplays.
"So our love for cinema goes beyond 100 years," he said.
Explaining the importance of mainstream commercial cinema he said it was the voice of the poor and downtrodden.
"In our films justice is done in three hours. But for many of us to get justice in real life takes us three generations," said the actor.
Seated next to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Bachchan, fondly called 'Babu Moshai', recalled how he had got his first job in Kolkata decades ago.
"This is also the city where I first dreamt of becoming an actor, Kolkata will always have a special place in my heart," he said.