Indian cinema has often been the voice of the poor, says Amitabh

Eminent poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan had once explained the general fascination for Indian cinema to his actor son Amitabh Bachchan by pointing out that the experience of watching a film assures the viewer of poetic justice in three hours while it may take three generations to achieve it in real life.

“I once asked my father, the eminent poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan, what is it about Indian cinema that is so fascinating. He said, ‘When you watch an Indian film, you are assured of poetic justice in three hours. For many of us it will take three generations or three lives to attain poetic justice.’ I thought that was a very apt and worthy description of what cinema means to all of us,” said Mr. Bachchan at the inauguration of the 18 edition of the Kolkata International Film Festival here on Saturday.

The ceremony, marked by the presence of several Bollywood stars including Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif and Anushka Sharma (the three of them addressed a press conference earlier in the day to promote their upcoming film Jab Tak Hai Jaan) and Mithun Chakraborty.

Describing himself as an actor who can “safely be identified as one associated with the more popular, escapist cinema of our country,” Mr. Bachchan pointed out that in recent years India’s presence in international cinema has been because of super stars.

“The kind of cinema we are associated with has often borne the brunt of sharp criticism, sarcasm and a very great deal of cynicism. The cynicism and criticism was about the content and the quality of our films. But through time, despite all the negativity, we have not changed our content, and happily so. Because for that very content, we have come close to an international community that has now begun to recognise us in great numbers,” he said.

His superstardom aside, it was the opening of Mr. Bachchan’s speech, when he identified himself as “apnar jamai babu (your son-in-law),” that captured the attention and endeared him to the audience.

Detailing the story of 100 years of Indian cinema with emphasis on the cinema of Kolkata, he said: “It has through the years reflected on India’s fluctuating cultural mores, been a mirror to its social and political history and often been the voice of the poor and downtrodden.”

The function started off with a short concert conducted by Debajyoti Mishra.

The inaugural ceremony was followed by a dance recital of a troupe of inmates from correctional homes in West Bengal. The inaugural film was the critically acclaimed A Separation directed by Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi.

The week-long festival will screen over 180 films from 60 countries.