Lauding Bengali filmmakers for sharing their “message of unity in diversity” for decades, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday said the state will never bow its head before others.
“Bengal has produced a number of award-winning filmmakers and the largest number of Nobel Prize winners in the country. We are number one in scientific and cultural development in the country. We are the cultural capital in the country,” she said, while inaugurating the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) in presence of a host of film stars, including Shah Rukh Khan, and former Indian cricket captain and BCCI President Sourav Ganguly at Netaji Indoor Stadium on Friday.
It was an apparent response to Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s statement last month that Bengal is lagging behind in scientific and cultural development.
The BJP national president, during a visit to West Bengal in October, had criticised the Trinamool Congress government for “destroying” Bengal, saying the state, which was once known for religious, scientific and cultural development, is now known for “bomb-making factories”.
“We are neither jealous of others, nor do we have any negative attitude towards any competition. We have a positive approach towards everybody. Rabindranath Tagore said ‘where the mind is without fear and the head is held high...’ As long as we live, we will never bow our heads before anyone,” the Chief Minister said.
Banerjee also lauded filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who was present on the dais, for advocating the need to celebrate diversity and raising his voice against “one-language formula”. “I like Mahesh Bhatt ji. He is very outspoken. When others are scared to speak out, he has the guts to speak his mind,” she said.
In an apparent support to Banerjee’s call for equal importance to all regional languages, Bhatt said no one should impose a language on others and must allow everyone to speak their mother tongue.
Superstar Shah Rukh Khan, accompanied by Banerjee and yesteryear Bollywood actor Rakhee, lit the ceremonial lamp.
A restored and digitised version of Satyajit Ray’s ‘Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne’ was screened as the inaugural film of the festival to mark its 50th year of release.
A galaxy of Indian and foreign film personalities, including German filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff, Slovakian filmmaker Dusan Hanak, producer and actress Andie Macdowell attended the inaugural event. Superstar Amitabh Bacchan, who was also scheduled to attend the event, could not due to his ill health.
As many as 214 films, 152 shorts and documentaries from 76 countries will be screened here.