Kolkata, Nov 11: With China as the focus country, the 22nd edition of the Kolkata International Film Festival saw a glittering start today in presence of Bollywood stars led by Amitabh Bachchan. Shah Rukh Khan, also the state’s brand ambassador, regaled the audience at the Netaji Indoor Stadium by reading out a few lines in Bengali while Bachchan gave a speech on the role of women in Indian cinema, but ended by reciting the poem “Tu chal tere wajood ki samay ko bhi talaash hai” from his latest hit film “Pink”.

“Last year I requested Mamata ‘didi’ to not call me again this year as I have run out of ideas for giving long speeches. But I had to come as you know that Mamata ‘di’ doesn’t relent on any matter,” megastar Bachchan said. Actress Kajol said that the enthusiasm shown by the people in the festival proves that there are only two things – religion and cinema – in India that people revere. Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt said the city enjoyed a special place in his heart because his mother was born here. He praised West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee saying it was she who had stood by her during his hard times.

Actress Parineeti Chopra was also present at the function. Bachchan has been attending the opening ceremony of KIFF for the last few years and to mark his association a book titled ‘Baritone’ which has all his festival speeches was released on the occasion. It was for the first time that a Bengali film “The Song of Life” by Abhijit Guha and Sudeshna Roy was chosen as the opening film of the eight-day-long carnival of cinema from across the world organised by the West Bengal government. Altogether 156 films from 65 countries will be screened at 13 venues in the city.

This year a new competitive category has been added to the festival. Award for Innovations in Moving Images will be given to encourage new ideas and new concepts, to pioneer a change in the realm of cinema. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee referred to actors Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan as their permanent guides for KIFF. Describing Kolkata as the cultural capital of the world she said West Bengal is the only place where Hollywood, Bollywood and Tollywood can meet each other. “Bengal can become the bridge which no one else can do,” she said.

Banerjee also prided herself in organising the screening of the inaugural film in the Netaji Indoor Stadium which has a seating capacity of 12,000 people. “This should go in the Guinness Book of World Records. Only Bengal can bring so many people together (to watch a film),” the CM said recalling that her departmental secretaries had initially said it was not possible to hold a film screening at the stadium. Filmmaker Goutam Ghosh, also the chairperson of KIFF, said, “We are living in an age of intolerance in religion, politics and culture but films can help us understand in a better way.”