But today at the same Netaji Indoor Stadium of Kolkata, Amitabh Bachhan received a standing ovation from the crowd — of about 20,000 people — who had come to witness the inaugural ceremony of the 18th Kolkata International Film Festival, at the invitation of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Bachhan was the chief guest at the festival, which will conclude on November 17.
And what made the film festival most memorable was the presence of a galaxy of Bollywood and Tollywood stars including Shah Rukh Khan, who is also Bengal’s brand ambassador, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma, Mithun Chakraborty, Bappi Lahiri, Kumar Shanu, Dev, Madhavi Mukherjee.
Incidentally, filmmaker Mrinal Sen and Tarun Majumdar, actors Saumitra Chatterjee and Biplab Roychoudhury, considered to be close to the Marxists were not seen though the organisers claimed they had invited all those who made commendable contribution to Indian cinema.
“I am busy with my theatre works and I could not make it to the inaugural ceremony,” Chatterjee, who came to attend the festival last year on the last day of the festival, told The Sunday Express.
Meanwhile, acknowledging the applause from the crowd, Bachchan said: “Kolkata is the cultural capital of India and I salute the people here because it is in this city where one can lift his sagging spirits. I started my life as an executive in a British managing agency here and the seeds of my acting career were sown here. I am the son-in-law of Bengal and I get the greatest affection and love here,” he added.
Shah Rukh heaped praises on Mamata, saying he was quite impressed by the enthusiasm and zeal of the chief minister. “I see her runnning around and pushing things,” he added.
The chief minister, while thanking everybody, meanwhile, requested filmmakers from not only Bollywood but from Hollywood too to come and make films here. “Darjeeling is smiling and so is Junglemahal. I exhort everybody to come and invest here,” she said.
Sixty films from 180 countries will be shown at the festival where the focus will be Africa. In an honour to Big B, seven of his films will also be shown at the festival.