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Mamata’s pet project reaches for the stars

An embattled Mamata Banerjee government is reaching for the stars, rolling out the red carpet for Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan at the opening of the 18th Calcutta Film Festival on November 10 at Netaji Indoor Stadium.

A bioscope tent and a running theme celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema apart from tributes, seminars and starry addas will jazz up the November 10-17 festival as the Writers’ machinery swings into glitzy event-management mode for the chief minister’s pet “culture project”.

The opening film is the Iranian drama A Separation directed and produced by Asghar Farhadi that won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2012. Farhadi is likely to attend.

Sandip Ray, who has replaced Anjan Dutt as chairman of the festival screening committee, said: “We’ve prioritised 2011-2012 films that have won awards and feature young, important film-makers and actors of today. The idea is to give people a fair overview of what new-age cinema looks like today.” Ray picked the inaugural film as a “must-watch”.

Music director Debojyoti Mishra will conduct a 20-minute concert featuring a 60-member orchestra of strings and vocals to celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema.

Alokananda Roy’s Balmiki Pratibha troupe, comprising inmates of Presidency correctional home, will put up a seven-minute piece comprising snatches from the production. “The chief minister has seen the dance drama thrice and loves what she calls the mayurer nach. So we will have the peacock dance using chhau costumes to the song Rimjhim ghono ghono re,” said Roy.

Miss Lovely, that will bring director Ashim Ahluwalia and the second lead actress Zeena Bhatia to the city, could be a big draw as the movie about Mumbai’s C-grade film industry that competed at the Cannes Film Festival this May is yet to release in India.

The other Cannes connection is Austrian director Michael Haneke’s Love that won the Palme d’Or this year.

The festival will pay a centenary tribute to Italian filmmaker Michael Antonioni and his volume of works including 13 of his films, both features and shorts.

One eye catcher will be a giant open-to-all 90 feet-by-40 feet structure designed on the lines of “bioscope tents” where films were screened during the primitive days of cinema. Tollywood art director Samir Kundu, who is conceptualising and constructing the tent titled Hiralal Sen Mancha at the Rabindra Sadan Prangan, said: “I was appointed by Haranath Chakraborty and Ranjit Mallick. We’re trying to rewind 100 years and create a blue-and-white striped tent decked with an old bioscope, old posters and a false projector throwing light on the screens... This will be an airtight tent to accommodate air-conditioners.”

The action at the Hiralal Sen Mancha bioscope tent kickstarts with a rare screening of Dadasaheb Phalke’s silent film Raja Harishchandra (1913), along with live music. The Film Mart with nine stalls will be housed in an adjoining space in the same tent.

The screening venues will be Nandan I, II, III, Rabindra Sadan, Sisir Mancha, Navina, Star Theatre, Mitra, Paradise, Purbasree (EZCC) and SRFTI. New Empire and Fame (South City) have been dropped this year.

The special section Calcutta/Kolkata introduced last year will screen seven films including Pratidwandi, Bari Theke Paliye and Chowringhee. The competitive section will see a three-member jury announcing a NETPAC award for the best film among the Asian Select.

The closing ceremony at Nandan on November 17 will feature a dance-drama act by Tollywood stars, organised by the Television Academy formed recently by the government.