The 20th edition of the Kolkata International Film Festival kicked off Monday with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lining up a galaxy of Bollywood stars including Amitabh Bachchan, his wife Jaya, son Abhishek and daughter-in-law Aishwarya, Shah Rukh Khan, Tanuja and Irrfan Khan.
Big B, who inaugurated the festival for the third consecutive year, regaled the gathering with a smattering of Bengali and reciting lines of Tagore. He left the audience in splits as he recounted an old tale of how a Bengali jamindar forgot to bring back his ‘dhoti’ while trying to bring back the ‘chadar’ his wife gave him before going to a courtesan.
However, the jam-packed Netaji Indoor Stadium, with which the iconic actor shares a special bond —- the superhit song sara zamana from Yarana was shot here more than three decades ago — was soon left wiping a tear or two as Bachchan turned emotional recounting the inspiring tale of a girl whose father had refused to spend on her education but who went on to win Rs 50 lakh on KBC.
“She came from a village and her father didn’t want her to complete her education. She moved to her grandparents house and they too didn’t want to go to school either. Yet she took it upon herself to live her dreams. In my show, she won Rs 50 lakh. That to me, is true woman power,” he said.
The much talked-about Shah Rukh Khan-Jaya Bachchan tiff was forgotten as the two were seen warmly hugging each other. Jaya had recently panned Khan’s latest blockbuster Happy New Year (which also starred her son Abhishek ) by calling it “nonsensical”.
Mamata presided over the ceremony in her trademark manner, engaging her guests in a playful banter. She also managed to get the Bollywood stars to inaugurate the Mother Wax Museum on the outskirts of the city. “I am happy to announce that we have started medical insurance for artitstes and technicians and we will soon have two film cities in Kolkata soon,” Mamata said.
Shah Rukh Khan, who is also the official brand ambassador of Bengal and owns the Kolkata Knight Riders IPL team, was repeatedly addressed as “ghorer chele” (local boy) by the hosts. He was seen running around the stage, restoring the competition trophy of the ceremony to its case. In a crowd rousing speech, in which he repeatedly spoke in Bengali, he spoke about his love for the city.
“Kolkata aamar praner shahar. Kolkata film festival aamar praner utsav. Chalo sobai mile eta ke safal kori. (Kolkata is the city of my soul. Kolkata film festival is a celebration of my soul. Come lets make it a success),” he said.
The 20th edition of the KIFF will be a eight-day affair and will screen 140 films at over 12 venues. It will also have a competition section for woman directors, the prize money of which, Rs 51 lakh, will be the highest in the country.