Kolkata film festival: Theatrical turn

Print edition : December 14, 2012

Soumitra Chatterjee.-NAGARA GOPAL

For all its glitz and glamour, the inaugural ceremony of the 18th Kolkata International Film Festival (November 10-17) failed to impress the Bengali film and theatre legend Soumitra Chatterjee, who called it crass. The film festival is neither a carnival nor a circus, said the thespian, known for his unforgettable roles in films directed by Satyajit Ray. He was conspicuous by his absence on the star-studded stage in the Netaji Indoor Stadium. Later, he said, Who has ever heard of a film festival being inaugurated in a stadium? Did the function attract genuine film lovers at all?

Soumitra, a Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner, was for long closely associated with the Kolkata Film Festival. Things changed after the Trinamool Congress assumed power in the State last year. This year he was not even given a delegate pass, and his invitation to attend the inaugural ceremony reportedly arrived only at the last minute. He also expressed concern about screening mainstream films alongside alternative cinema.

The director Buddhadeb Dasgupta echoed Soumitras concerns. It was a caricature of a film festival. Many of the films that were screened are available on DVDs, he said. Referring to the seven Amitabh Bachchan starrers that were screened at the festival, he said, Not taking anything away from Bachchan as an actor, the question remains, why show his films in the film festival when they are repeatedly shown on television?

The Kolkata Film Festival has been a vehicle for serious cinema with high artistic and intellectual content. By bringing in mainstream cinema, the space for other films has been somewhat reduced. Moreover, there are many serious critics, academics and writers who were not invited to participate in the process, said Mihir Bhattacharya, formerly a professor of film studies in Jadavpur University.

According to informed sources, the organisers left out many critics and academics because they were perceived to have been close to the previous CPI (M)-led Left Front government. It is unfortunate that culture is taken over by politics because that signals the end of culture, said Dasgupta.

Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay
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