Notwithstanding the presence of Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan that pervaded the 18th Kolkata Film Festival inauguration here Saturday, it was West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who was the real master of ceremonies.
When chief guest Amitabh Bachchan was invited to take his seat on the dais first, Banerjee gestured to the compere to call out the names of all the VIPS from the Hindi and Bengali film industries so that they could take their place on the stage together.
Seeing some veterans from the Bengali film industry having problems in climbing the stairs to the dias, she lent them a helping hand.
She felicitated all the guests on the stage one by one, wrapping scarves around them and handing out bouquets.
When the time came for the formal inauguration by lighting the ceremonial lamp, she requested Bachchan to do the needful. After Bachchan lit the lamp, Banerjee passed it to Shah Rukh Khan. Always careful about the sentiments of the Bengali film veterans, she helped them be a part of the lighting ceremony.
During his speech, Bollywood actor Mithun Chakraborty said that Banerjee had virtually "hijacked" him to the festival. "She threatened to spoil all my work in Mumbai if I don't make it to the festival," he mused.
Shah Rukh Khan, who is West Bengal's brand ambassador at Banerjee's prodding, was all praise.
"Everytime I come here all I want to see is Mamata di running around energetically. With her energy and enthusiasm she always gets things moving. I don't know if I should say this but she packs a big punch in a little package," he said.
Earlier in the day, Shah Rukh Khan had expressed admiration for the leader at a promotional.
"It is highly commendable the way she leads. Im a big fan of hers," he had said.
"She is a firebrand leader, she takes a lot of initiative in doing things. That is her leadership style. In our country for a lady it is doubly difficult to be so outgoing," he said.
Speaking in a mix of Bengali and English, the chief minister talked about how she had almost fought with director Goutam Ghosh to force him to cancel all engagements away from the city.
She announced that over 2,000 foreign delegates have come for the fest.
Banerjee said that her government was interested to set up three film cities to give more support to Bengali films.
Concluding her speech, she packaged Bengal as an investment destination.
"Bengal has the potential. Bengal can be the destination for world cinema. I invite invite national and international film personalities to invest in Bengal," she said.
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