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Film fest off to a starry start

Hours after Bollywood bigwigs Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan starred in the inaugural programme at Netaji Indoor Stadium, a separate event was arranged on Sunday morning to kick off the Salt Lake edition of the 18th Calcutta International Film Festival at the Purbashree auditorium, EZCC. It is the venue of the 21 films that are being screened in the township.

The stage was set up on the foyer, which was decorated with portraits of Indian luminaries, often of apposite fields and sensibilities. Tagore, the only non-film personality, was the garlanded centrepiece with the recently departed Bollywood director Yash Chopra for company. If Satyajit Ray was there, so was Mahesh Bhatt. Kishore Kumar and Mohd. Rafi had also found space. Mrinal Sen and Soumitra Chatterjee, though missing at the main inauguration, were present in their pictorial representations.

And lording over the open-air stage were cutouts of the two Hindi film stars. Someone pointed to the omission of Mithun Chakraborty, who had attended the chief minister’s show. “I’ll add that soon,” promised chairperson of the festival at Salt Lake Krishna Chakraborty. By Tuesday, Mithun had joined the duo.

Swagatalaxmi Dasgupta, a resident of Vidyasagar Niketan, chanted adyastotra slokas, followed by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Vande Mataram, without accompaniments. “There was so much chattering on stage that it was hard to focus and I had to cut the stotra short,” she was heard saying, as she came down.

The singer was soon surrounded by children seeking autographs. These were the little dancers who performed admirably on a stage where little space was left after seating two rows of dignitaries. “Many of them are from poor families,” said dance director Abhirup Sengupta.

The centrepiece of the programme was a spontaneous dance recital by actress Locket Chatterjee with Salt Lake resident Sudarshan Chakravorty of Sapphire Creations Dance Workshop. As Sriradha Bandopadhyay sang Tomar khola hawa, the duo danced merrily along, making the fringe audiences go click-click with their mobiles. “Till last night, we were busy setting up the festival gates and banners. So we thought of watching the inauguration before leaving,” said Kajal Dandapat, an employee of the decorator who had captured the dance as a video clip on his phone.

“I have never danced impromptu on stage like this. But I could not say no when Krishnadi made a request. I like coming to her programmes as the atmosphere is so homely. Thankfully, Sudarshan and I know each other’s dance styles so it went off well,” she said later.

The homeliness was created by the fact that a large part of the audience comprised the Trinamul councillors. Also present were Techno India chief Satyam Roy Chowdhury, local MLA Sujit Bose and elocutionists Sovan Sundar Bosu and Sutapa Banerjee.

Festival committee chairman Ranjit Mullick, who was the chief guest, arrived late. “I am unwell,” he said, as he took the stage. “A film has two uses — education and entertainment. It opens a window to those sitting in Calcutta how people in Ethiopia live. The other use is letting people have fun,” said the man introduced as the star of the 80s potboiler Shotru “which brought about a renaissance in Bengali films”.

After the lighting of the inaugural lamp, white pigeons and tricolour balloons were released, followed by a hot air balloon.

Joint convenor June invited residents of Salt Lake to make the most of the venue next door. “Not everyone can travel to Nandan. And some of the films being shown at Purbashree are not being shown there,” she said, adding “Do not miss out the Iranian film Nader and Simin, a Separation which was the festival’s opening film. It will be shown on the last day here on Saturday.”