The Hindu

Big B turns a bard of diversity

- SHIV SAHAY SINGH

KOLKATA:

At the opening of the 21st Kolkata Internatio­nal Film Festival on Saturday, actor Amitabh Bachchan quoted Rabindrana­th Tagore’s poetry to draw attention to the importance of upholding “Indian’s diversity and equality at a time when cultures are being questioned.”

Reciting lines from Tagore’s Jana Gana Mana, Bachchan said the stanzas exemplify “Bharat Mata’s unconditio­nal love for all her children”.

“The first verse, ladies and gentlemen, is our National Anthem but the other verses are just as relevant in holding India’s diversity and equality at time when cultures are being questioned and prejudices against communitie­s are dividing the world.” “Now more than ever, we need to talk to each other, listen to each other,” Bachchan said, adding that cinema could serve as the best medium for dialogue.

“By looking at films which capture different ethnicitie­s, we give a window to what makes people all over the globe different and also what makes them similar. This essential understand­ing rises above stereotype­s and acknowledg­es both the unity and the diversity in humanity,” the actor said.

Big B spoke about his associatio­n with Kolkata: of how a culturally diverse, pluralisti­c and inclusive society and the rich legacy of literature of Bengal had given rise to cinema that has a “looked at social disparitie­s with concern”.

“Films from here have mattered because they have had extraordin­ary understand­ing by moving us closer to cultures, problems and realities that are distant from those we know well,” he said. Delving into the history of cinema, the superstar recalled the Madan Theatres of the city that were pioneers of a giant distributi­on operation that dominated Indian cinema in the silent era.

“R.L. Khemka, who began Kolkata’s East India Film Company, was the first Indian producer to screen a film at an internatio­nal film festival, Bachchan said, referring to the film Sita shown at the Venice Film Festival in 1934.

Talking about cinema of the present, including films like Piku, Kahani and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, he expressed his delight about Indian cinema embracing Bengali cinema’s “deep belief in equality and social justice”.

 ?? — PHOTO: AFP ?? (From left) Amitabh Bachchan, Moushumi Chatterjee, Vidya Balan, Mamata Banerjee, Jaya Bachchan and Sharmila Tagore take a selfie at the start of the Kolkata Internatio­nal Film Festival on Saturday.
— PHOTO: AFP (From left) Amitabh Bachchan, Moushumi Chatterjee, Vidya Balan, Mamata Banerjee, Jaya Bachchan and Sharmila Tagore take a selfie at the start of the Kolkata Internatio­nal Film Festival on Saturday.

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