Amid a galaxy of stars from Bollywood, Bengali cinema and foreign shores, megastar Shah Rukh Khan on Friday inaugurated the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival at Netaji Indoor stadium here.
Flanked by yesteryear's top heroine Rakhi Gulzar, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and 'thali girl' Srabonti Chatterjee, SRK lit the ceremonial lamp to wild cheers from the audience, who later enjoyed every bit of the opening film – Satyajit Ray's children's classic "Goopy Gayen Bagha Bayen", which is celebrating its 50th year.
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Germany's Oscar winning director Volker Schlondorff, "Sex, Lies and Videotape" actress Andie MacDowell, Slovak film maker Dusan Hanak graced the occasion, alongside Bollywood auteur Mahesh Bhatt, and BCCI President and former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly were among those who graced the function.
SRK, in his speech, described the 25th year of the festival as an important landmark.
"The 25th year is an important landmark, an important milestone for cinema not only in Bengal, but to the rest of our country because some of the greatest cinema, some of the defining cinema of India comes from Bengal and Kolkata," he said.
Shah Rukh stepped in to inaugurate the jamboree in the absence of Amitabh Bachchan, who was originally scheduled to do the job, but could not make it to the fest due to indisposition.
"Amitabhji comes here every time. But he could not turn up. Since last night he is unwell. So doctors have restricted his movements. He is suffering a lot since last night," Banerjee said.
Speaking on the occasion, Schlondorff paid rich tributes to Oscar winning maestro Satyajit Ray, rating the "humanity" in his cinema far higher than the intellectual approach of the New cinema movement in France and Germany.
He said Indian cinema never lost track of the sensual, the visual and the beauty of our lives as it made synthesis of ideas and concepts.
"One day in an art house in Paris we discovered Pather Panchali and the whole Apu trilogy and all of a sudden we discovered that behind the facade of palaces and costumes there was an incredibly humanity far superior to our intellectual approach in France and Germany at the time of new cinema," he said.
Sex, Lies, and Videotape fame American actress Andie Macdowell called for preserving Ray's films for posterity.
Bhatt said it was high time filmmakers realise their responsibility to 'whip up' hopes of a better tomorrow, in a scenario where the "structures all around us globally are collapsing."
Also in attendance were Madhabi Mukherjee – known internationally for portraying the title role in Satyajit Ray's "Charulata", actor MPs Nusrat Jahan, Mimi Chakraborty, Shatabdi Roy and Deb Adhikary besides film directors Goutam Ghosh and Sandip Ray.
The programme began with a montage of history of cinema, followed by a short promotional film on Bengal's film locations made by Parambrata Chatterjee, before a gripping song and dance presentation choreographed by Tanushree Shankar.
Later, Nusrat presented the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival commemoration trophy to SRK, as the audience fervently clapped.
A bouquet of 214 features and 152 shorts and documentaries from 76 nations are on offer during the eight-day gala.