KOLKATA — It was standing room only at the Netaji Indoor Stadium as 20,000 people thronged the 12,000 seat venue to catch a glimpse of their favorite Bollywood and Bengali stars at the opening ceremony of the 22nd Kolkata international film festival on Friday.
Delivering the keynote address, Amitabh Bachchan detailed the history of strong women characters in Indian cinema from “Acchut Kanya” (1936) through the cinema of Satyajit Ray to recent woman empowerment hit “Pink,” that features Bachchan in a starring role alongside Taapsee Pannu. Bachchan called for much greater representation of women in the male-dominated Indian film industry.
The loudest cheers were reserved for Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan who is one of the owners of local Indian Premiere League cricket team Kolkata Knight Riders. Khan delivered a prepared speech in the local language Bengali that brought the house down.
Bengali cinema stars present at the ceremony included Dev, Rituparna Sengupta, Jisshu Sengupta and Paoli Dam.
In her concluding remarks, Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of the state of West Bengal, declared that Kolkata (previously known as Calcutta) is the “culture capital of the world” as it assimilates the film cultures of Bollywood, Hollywood and Tollywood (the nickname of the Bengali film industry).
The festival runs through Nov. 18.