‘In theatre, we never see caste, creed, colour of the person sitting next’

Very few institutions in the fast-disintegrating world can boast of the integration that cinema provides, Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan said here on Sunday at the inauguration of the 19 Kolkata International Film Festival. “Apart from being a great medium of entertainment cinema has always played the role of a unifier and integrator.”

“When we sit inside a darkened hall to see a film, we never see the caste, the creed, the colour and the religion of the person sitting next to us. Yet we enjoy the same film, we laugh at the same jokes, we cry at the same emotions and we sing the same songs,” he said.

Commenting on the association between literature and cinema, Mr. Bachchan said the “inspiration to most works of cinema has, to me, been the contribution made by the written word.”

Reflecting on the influence of Bengali literature on both Bengali and other Indian cinema, from the silent-era to the talkies and then to the works of Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen, and more recently of Rituparno Ghosh, he said he was happy that authors were inspiring young filmmakers in Bengal.

“In fact it is exciting to know that many young filmmakers in Bengal with new ideas and a new vision are turning to literature for inspiration. There is an expectation for a breath of fresh air and exceptional stories once more.” The Apu Trilogy, Mr. Bachchan said, was “as much a tribute to Satyajit Ray as they are to Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay.”

On the many screen adaptations of Devdas, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s classic, Mr. Bachchan said it was the “single example of a fascinating story of unrequited love has fired the imagination of so many filmmakers.”

Rabindranath Tagore was also involved with the art of cinema in its nascent stages, he said, adding that he was credited with attempting to direct the Bengali talkie Natir Puja in 1932, which is based on his own dance drama.

‘Expression of collected happiness’

Speaking on the occasion, Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan said: “Festivals like these one are the most basic human expressions of collected happiness over life I think. I hope creative interactions of this scale help Indian films to reach the height that great filmmakers present tonight.”

Distinguished film personalities such as Jaya Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborty and Kamal Haasan, along with veteran actress Sabitri Chatterjee and Supriya Devi and many other prominent faces of Indian cinema, were among those present at the inauguration, as was West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.