Blending modernity with tradition – Kolkata Film Festival steps into the 19th year
Autumn in Kolkata brings with it a grand celebration of culture – the Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF). Every year, Durga Puja onwards starts the season of festivals and fairs in Kolkata, and KIFF is one of the high-water marks.
Kolkata Film Festival (as KIFF was known then) was essentially the culmination of a Film Society movement which has its roots in the works of master filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak. The Nandan complex, which had been inaugurated by Satyajit Ray in 1985 (and whose logo he designed as well), was, and continues to be, the focal point of the festival. When the festival started eighteen years back, it was hugely popular.
Initial Euphoria and a gradual decline
From 1995 onwards, for the first few years, it was very successful. There was a huge rush for tickets as well as for special passes. Many international luminaries graced the festival with their august presence. People in general got more and more interested in the culture of watching good foreign and Indian films, which were otherwise out of bounds for them.
However, over the years, it lost its popular appeal, and the festival became lacklustre in character. The choice of films became too much of a highfalutin thing to interest the general public. Watching films at the festival became an overtly intellectual exercise.
Then came the change
Two years back, the new government decided to overhaul the film festival and restore its lost glory. It became a personal challenge for Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. She actively pursued the process of making the film festival a meeting ground of sorts for a lot of people, and not just critics and film students. As a result, from 2011, the footfall has increased hugely.
A more judicious mix of films is now par for the course. There is something for everyone, from the lay viewer to the critic. To reach more people, the opening ceremony has been shifted to the Netaji Indoor Stadium, which can seat many more people than the Nandan auditorium. Popular stars from the film industries of Kolkata and Mumbai are regulars at the festival now.
Moving with the times
The 19th Kolkata International Film Festival, from November 10-17, would have 189 films from 63 countries spanning 10 languages, and would be spread across 13 venues including Nandan, Rabindra Sadan, Inox City Centre 1 and Star Theatre.
A lot of innovative fare centered around the festival is lined up for this year. Mobile vans will visit certain neighbourhoods to screen films, hold events and contests. Street events will be held on Park Street and at South City Mall. A flash mob is also being planned for November 7 in the New Market area. The organisers are also organising a ‘movie mob’ – where performers enact scenes from famous films on the street.
With apps for mobile phones catching on fast, the KIFF authorities too have hitched on to the app bandwagon. The app is available on Play Store for Android phones. The history of the festival, schedules of films, featured film-makers over the years, a photo gallery, trailers and wallpapers would be part of the app’s content.
A theme song has been created for KIFF for the first time. The song was launched on November 1 by the state Information and Cultural Affairs (I&CA) department. The song pays tribute to the legendary singer Manna Dey, who passed away recently. A part of the lyrics of the evergreen Manna song, ‘Jibone Ki Paabo Na’, from the 1969 film Teen Bhubaner Paarey, has been incorporated in the theme song.
A star-studded affair
Amitabh Bachchan and the brand ambassador of West Bengal, Shah Rukh Khan are going to attend the opening ceremony on November 10. And it’s not just them. Icons like Jaya Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborty and Kamal Hassan would also be attending the inaugural ceremony, amongst a galaxy of personalities.
The closing ceremony, to be held at the Science City auditorium, would be dedicated to female Bengali stars who have left a mark on the national front, and many of them would be present at the ceremony. Among others, veteran actress Sharmila Tagore and directors Madhur Bhandarkar and Shoojit Sarkar would also be present at different stages of the festival.
Film Festival (as KIFF was known then) was essentially the culmination
of a Film Society movement which has its roots in the works of master
filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak. The Nandan
complex, which had been inaugurated by Satyajit Ray in 1985 (and whose
logo he designed as well), was, and continues to be, the focal point of
the festival. When the festival started eighteen years back, it was
.Tribute to Rituparno
One of the best film-makers in modern India, Rituparno Ghosh, died last May. To honour him, the festival has prepared a special tribute. Rituparno’s unreleased film, Taak Jhaank (Sunglass), would be screened on the opening day, that is, November 10, in the presence of people like Amitabh Bachchan, who worked with Ghosh in the English film The Last Lear. The film, a satire on magic surrealism, stars Jaya Bachchan and Naseerudddin Shah together for the first time. The director’s works would also be highlighted through a special tribute which would run throughout the festival, containing films both directed by as well as acted in, by the genius.
This year being the 100th year of the first film to be made in the country, Raja Harishchandra by Dadasaheb Phalke, a special section has been created titled ‘100 Years of Indian Cinema’. It would showcase classics such as Ganga Jumna, Oonche Log, Jalsaghar and Khamoshi, among others. The legendary Malayalam director, Adoor Gopalakrishnan would be the focus of the ‘Retrospective’ section, and it would feature nine Malayalam films by the master.
And the usual fare
A special ‘Focus’ section would be there, featuring films from the south-east Asian region. Plus, like all years, there would be exhibitions, seminars and lectures. Also, like all previous years, there would be a Film Mart, which plays an important role in the buying and selling of films by producers and distributors. A new addition to this year's KIFF is the section 'Shades of Black and White', where contemporary black and white films would be shown. And of course, as usual, the food stalls set up by reputed names at the Nandan complex, serving everything from delicious snacks to lunch and dinner, would be in ‘special focus’!
All in all, the 2013 KIFF promises to be a grand affair, bringing in film enthusiasts to enjoy some of the best of world and Indian cinema, and proving once more that Kolkata truly deserves the sobriquet of ‘cultural capital of India’.