Mainstreaming of Kolkata Film Festival

Kolkata, Nov 3 (Calcutta Tube / IBNS) For the first time of its long history, the Kolkata Film Festival (KFF) is going all out to project and promote a glamorized image of itself vis-à-vis the star power of Shahrukh Khan and the charismatic presence of Sharmila Tagore, both famous for their celluloid branding in Bollywood cinema.

The two celebrity personalities have been reportedly invited by West Bengal Chief Minister (Mamata Banerjee) herself and have agreed to grace the inauguration.

Tollywood star Koel Mullick will help them light the inaugural lamp at the Netaji Indoor Stadium on Nov 10.

The stadium is the personal choice of the Chief Minister for the inaugural function so that the function opens its doors to the general public with its accommodation extending to an audience of 10,000.

Initiated by the Left Front Government in 1996, the festival will take place between November 10 and 17 for the first time under the auspices of the newly formed government of the state.

The screening of films, however, has been trimmed down to a meagre 150 films, a very modest figure indeed considering the festival’s widely celebrated international status and acceptance.

Adding to the international quality of the festival will be its special guest, Turkish photographer, actor and filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan. A retrospective of some of his films has been organized but the names of the films are yet to be announced.

Veteran actor Ashok Kumar, again from Hindi mainstream cinema has been chosen for a centenary tribute with four of his films from his voluminous oeuvre – Achchhyut Kanya, Kismet, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi and Haatey Bajare. At the administrative level, it is once again the Tollywood mainstream that is at the helm of affairs.

Ranjit Mullick, veteran actor, is the head of the advisory committee with Gautam Ghose, Prosenjit, Haranath Chakraborty, Anjan Dutt, film scholar Sanjoy Mukhopadhyay, Ujjal Chakraborty of Roop Kala Kendro, film critic Nirmal Dhar and Ratnotamma Sengupta and others on the board.

A major attraction at the festival in support of its Calcutta/Kolkata theme and screening programme will be an exhibition of 100 still photographs taken by filmmaker Satyajit Ray that will showcase photographs clicked by him on the streets of Kolkata from the early Fifties to the mid-Sixties. The photographic exhibition will be on display at the ground floor of Nandan during the festival.

Beyond the regular screenings at the Nandan complex that includes Sisir Mancha and Rabindra Sadan and Madhusudan Mancha, additional venues like Biosocope, Inox and Navina have been brought in this year to facilitate better viewing facilities for film lovers across the city.

Questions of logistics remain.

Is the Netaji Indoor Stadium conducive for screening films as part of an International Film Festival?

Is the Stadium designed to screen films?

Within its ambience of a poor acoustic system, will not putting a proper sound system in place be a real challenge for the organizers?

Will inviting an audience of 10,000 not create problems of law and order and harness a major slice of the city’s police force to take care?

But the taste of the pudding is in eating and so time will tell how the film festival, a pet project of former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, will fare under the new chief minister of West Bengal.

– Shoma A. Chatterji

(Shoma A Chatterji is a National Award winning film writer. Some of the views expressed in his articles are of the author.)

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