Showtime: superstars & a sister Biggies orbit around Didi

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  • Published 11.11.13

“Charming, energetic and hyperactive… always running around, jumping around, making this wonderful Calcutta International Film Festival come alive with her energy.” That was Shah Rukh Khan describing Mamata Banerjee at the Netaji Indoor Stadium on his third visit to the film festival.

Amitabh Bachchan, on his second visit, also seemed familiar with Mamata’s ways, prompting him to have a pehle-aap-pehle-aap (you-first-you-first) moment with her on who should take the chair first.

For Kamal Haasan, a first-timer at the event, the chief minister was the “surprise” package, someone in whom he “found a sister... a member of a family, busy inviting everyone, and very surprisingly not interested in sitting in the chair for too long!”

If the power-packed podium was the centre of everyone’s attention, Mamata was the focus of those on it as the inauguration of the 19th Calcutta International Film Festival lived up to the promise of being the biggest blockbuster of 2013.

A happy — and typically restless — Mamata trilled: “We are really very proud…Telewood, Tollywood, Bollywood and Hollywood, everyone is here!”

A hundred artistes from Sukalyann D Entourage took the packed stadium on a song-and-dance journey through the decades with Big B, King Khan, Kamal Haasan, Jaya Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborty, Prosenjit, Aparna Sen and Konkona Sensharma in the front row.

The chief minister played PR manager for Tolly. Mamata had said at last year’s festival that she wanted to build a bridge “between Tollywood and Bollywood”, so she got the younger crop of artistes to felicitate the guests and the older ones to share the dais with them.

June and Jisshu were the hosts but Jaya took upon herself the task of introducing “the three non-real Bengalis Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Kamal Haasan” to the audience on behalf of the “real Bengalis… me, Prosenjit and Mithun”.

If Bachchan floored the audience with his ode to reminiscence in Bengali — “Onek purono katha mone pore jay. Tai abar apnader kachhe esechhi apnader jamai...” — his analysis of Bengal’s film history was a study in eloquence.

SRK promised to “speak in Bengali” next time so that “Jaya aunty feels I am also truly, truly, truly from Calcutta!”

Mithun, who returned from Georgia for the festival opening because Mamata had threatened to “not allow him to come to Bengal ever”, called the chief minister “kokhono bon, kokhono boro bon aar kokhono bondhu (sometimes sister, sometimes elder sister and sometimes friend).

Mamata later announced mediclaim coverage for artistes and technicians and “accommodation for Bangabibhusan awardees with housing problems”. Supriya Devi was the first recipient of the grant.

Mamata also set the stage for a casting coup next year with: “Booking the dates of Amitabhji…along with full family… apnader chhara amader hobena (we can’t do without you)!”

No wonder @SrBachchan later tweeted: “Great respect and regard to me from CM and people of the city. Overwhelmed.”

19th calcutta film festival opening is blockbuster of 2013

Amitabh Bachchan

Onek purono katha mone pore jaye. Tai abar apnader kachhe esechhi apnader jamai. Ebar apnader meye amar bou Jaya ke niye, boroder ashirbad chhotoder bhalobasha chaite (A lot of memories come flooding back and so I have come back to you as your son-in-law. This time I have brought along your daughter, my wife Jaya, to seek the blessings of the elders and love of the young). Onek onek dhonyobad....

In conclusion, I would just like to say that cinema to me, apart from being a great medium of entertainment, has always played the role of a unifier and an integrator. When we sit inside a darkened hall to see a film, we never ask the cast, the creed, the colour or the religion of the person sitting next to us. That we enjoy the same film, we laugh at the same jokes, we cry at the same emotion and we sing the same songs. There are very few institutions left in this fast disintegrating world that can boast of such an integration and such an atmosphere. I am just very proud to be a small portion of this very illustrious fraternity.

Shah Rukh Khan

All I can say is thank you Calcutta for all the warmth, all the love, for adopting me and giving me this opportunity to be here every year. I have been coming here now for the last three years and I promise you next time when I am here I will speak in Bengali, so that Jaya aunty feels I am also truly, truly, truly from Calcutta. I’ll come to you and learn from you (turns to Jaya).


Kamal Haasan

Shah Rukhji was talking about learning the language and Jayaji said you can but you must start from here (puts his hand on his heart). It’s a brilliant saying and that’s why we cherish Calcutta, we start from here (puts his hand on his heart). I am honoured to have this opportunity to be among stars, friends and I have nostalgic memories of Calcutta and a film, Kobita, which I did. It taught me a little bit of Bengali but a lot about Bengalis. I never forgot that. I consider myself one among you ever since. Not only my national anthem but my anthem of love also could be in Bengali!



Minutes before Amitabh Bachchan was about to leave the stage, Didi called me and said: ‘Dev, do you want to tell him something’? So I put my hand on his and requested him to bring Aishwarya and Abhishek next year. I told him ‘Sir we are very grateful that you came for the second time but next year you should come with your entire family’. He replied, ‘Yes, yes’.... It’s a big thing to be able to felicitate him. He is my childhood icon. I am very happy.