A day after veteran actress Sharmila Tagore said the 21st edition of the Kolkata International Film Festival is better organised than its earlier editions, the organisers of the eight-day festival claimed that this has turned into the most expensive film festival of the country under the ruling Trinamool Congress.
“With a budget of Rs 8 crore, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s showcase event is the most expensive edition of the festival. This is a significant jump from last year’s budget of Rs 5.8 crore,” said Arkadeb Bhaduri, in-charge of the finance department of KIFF. “Didi (Mamata Banerjee) has big dreams for this festival. She wants it to become the biggest film festival of the country,” he added.
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From quirky posters to a long-drawn promotional campaign (which included flash mob performances at a number of malls across the city), the organisers had left no stones unturned to ensure that KIFF grabs adequate media attention this year.
After coming to power in 2011, Mamata has ensured the presence of Bollywood superstars like Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma, Irrfan Khan and Vidya Balan to make the festival a grand affair . “Many claim that the festival has ended up being a Bollywood tamasha but they don’t realise that these stars ensure public attendance. Today, KIFF is a much more youth-friendly festival than it was during the CPIM era,” says film director Arindam Sil, who is also a member of the executive council of the festival.
The last time the festival was organised by the Left Front government was in 2010, when the event had a budget of less than Rs 1 crore. “The festival was a low-key affair then. The then chief minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, took personal interest in it. He was a film buff and would have a say in selecting the films too. The inauguration ceremony too wasn’t a big deal, films were the focus,” says Angshu Sur, who was the director of the festival during the Left Front era.
Sil added that Mamata, unlike Buddhadeb, doesn’t have any say in selection of films in the festival but involves experts in the process. “She sent me and some other delegates to Cannes to choose the best of the films from there. She delegates the responsibilities to people who are more clued-in,” added the Tollywood director.
Under Mamata’s control, a major share of the budget is spent on improving the infrastructure of the Nandan cinema complex, where most of the screenings are held, claim organisers. “We have installed a brace 4k projector at Nandan at the cost of Rs 70 lakh. This means that the projection now will be crystal clear. We have also upgraded the sound system of the hall,” said Sil.
Another major step by the CM was the decision to hold screenings of Hollywood classics at parks across the city, making it open to the public. “The chief minister say the festival shouldn’t only be about the educated middle-class who have discerning taste in cinema. It should also reach out to people from different walks of life,” said Bhaduri.