On a day when two internationally acclaimed films La Llorona (The Weeping Woman) and Nabarvene Ptace (The Painted Bird) won the best film and best director awards at the international competition at the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival, Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan expressed concern over the future of cinema in the age of digital streaming platforms.
“Digital platforms like Netflix and Amazon are revolutionising the way we watch films and several other streaming services are now available in India. So what happens next?” Mr. Bachchan said in a video message that was played at the concluding ceremony of the KIFF in the city. Mr. Bachchan, who has been attending the KIFF over the past few years, could not attend the inauguration owing to health issues.
“Can classics like Gone with the Wind or Mughal-e-Azam be watched on the small screen with the same excitement that had originally made them blockbusters? Can the magic of Satyajit Ray’s trilogy or his classic Jalsaghar be captured with the same amount of sensitivity on a small laptop or on a mobile phone?” he asked.
At the concluding part of his video message, which ran for over 20 minutes, Mr. Bachchan said he remained “a loyalist” to the tradition to watching films on the big screen and the thrill of watching films on big screens was unmatched.
“We need to find ways of protect these traditions. I like the idea of pictures first being shown in cinema halls and then on other devices,” he said, adding that watching cinema on big screen should remain “enticing” and “realistically priced”.
“Content must be the undisputed king to drive people out of their homes on a lazy Sunday afternoon out of their sofas,” Mr. Bachchan said and quoted Francis Ford Coppolla, “I think cinema, movies, and magic have always been closely associated. The very earliest people who made film were magicians.” He added, “It is our duty not to let these magicians down”.
Meanwhile, several other films other won the awards in the competitive section of the KIFF, which included Hiralal Sen Memorial Award for Best film in Indian Languages by Marathi film Mai Ghat Crime No-103-2005 directed by Ananth Mahadevan and the Best Director award to Indrashis Acharya for his film Parcel.
Shabana Azmi, who was the chief guest at the concluding ceremony of the festival, welcomed the handsome cash component to winners of the awards extended by the West Bengal government and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. “These are not mainstream films and they need this kind of support,” she said.
Speaking about pluralism and composite culture, Ms. Azmi said that India celebrated its diversity and pluralism and the Constitution guaranteed this right.
“I have been raised in a family that believed art should be used as an instrument of social change, I believe cinema has the ability to create a climate of sensitivity in which it is possible for change to occur. For this to happen, artists must be given freedom of expression,” she said.
Ms. Azmi said any attempt to curb to freedom of expression “will be resisted and must be resisted”.
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