Sundeep Bhutoria

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kolkata Film Fest – the spirit is back

The 17th Kolkata Film Festival 2011 inaugural function was a positive break from the past in many ways and not just because India's super star Shah Rukh Khan happened to inaugurate it. It was like unshackling the festival from the bureaucratic straitjacket. For once I felt that this was a real Film Festival inauguration and not a routine government function.
Compared to the inaugural programs of the past, the difference was evident right from the design and quality of the invitation card to the venue, decor, ambience, steering the programme to even the vote of thanks speech by Nandini Chakraborty.
I have served on the Film Festival as a committee member for many years and also hosted the farewell dinners in succession for several years. I have witnessed the inaugurations by Mani Ratnam, Mrinal Sen, Gopal Krishna Gandhi and of course Buddhadev Bhattacharya, but there is simply no comparison to what I saw and felt today as the 17th Kolkata Film Festival 2011 unfolded before me at the Netaji Indoor Stadium.
There was very tight security at the entrance, the card requested guests “to be seated by 3:30 PM”. I reached the venue at 3:30 PM sharp and found that many of the guests had arrived before me. I greeted Chuni Goswami, Sanjay Budhia, Prabhat Roy and got a seat for myself. About 10 minutes later Mahendra K Jalan and Ravi Poddar joined the same row. I saw my friend Anandi Ghose and I left my seat and sat next to her.
The Festival inauguration witnessed a gathering of people from all segments of society as the Chief Minister rightly said “That we have a galaxy of every one from society”. Besides film directors, actors and actresses, there were litterateurs Shishendu, Sankha Ghosh and Sunil Gangopadhyay, singers Usha Uthup and Nachiketa, danseuse Ajanta Banerjee and Alokananda Roy. Suvaprasanna and other artists along with others from the world of theatre, sports etc., were also present.
The show started about 20 minutes late and seeing the crowd I wondered if it was the right crowd for Kolkata which is the cultural capital of the country. During the earlier Film Festivals at Nandan, I had noticed over the years how many of the invitees would turn up to ensure that their faces were seen by the right persons in power and then they would quickly leave the venue. It was more like a roll call.
But the 17th Kolkata Film Festival has changed it all. I could easily make out that the crowd wanted to be there at the event, enjoying every moment of it. They weren't there just to give their attendance. This is a welcome change.
I know for a fact that for many years there used to be a scarcity of film personalities not only at the inaugural function but also during the Festival itself.
If one thinks seriously, it was a pitiable situation doing Film Festival inaugurations without the presence of film stars.
But this year, where ever your eyes went you could see either Prosenjit, Dev, Jeet, Jishu, Koel, June, Aparna and other veteran film stars who have immortalised the screens with their sterling performances over the years. The top brass of Tollywood was there in full strength.
But one thing I could not help wondering - Would it have been the same without Shah Rukh.
It could be so, because apart from Shah Rukh there was a lot of element and soul in the inauguration that digressed from the past. I, however, missed, Mrinal Sen and Soumitra Chatterjee.
If you have to pick up a fault in the organization of the function there is absolutely nothing apart from a few guests on the dais sitting in the wrong chairs marked for them.
I was scheduled to leave for Delhi this afternoon but decided to attend the inauguration and then leave and I think I made the right decision. Before the film started, I came out with Debasree Roy and Mr and Mrs Sandip Ray. I felt proud that after 16 years we have finally learnt how to inaugurate a Film Festival with style and panache, and above all, getting the spirit back.
ess bee

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