Cinema greats Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Mithun Chakraborty and Kamal Haasan dazzled as they came together at the 19th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) at the Netaji Indoor Stadium here Sunday.
Joining them was also West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the curtain-raising event for the festival.
Bengali filmmaker Sandip Ray, veteran actresses Sabitri Chatterjee and Supriya Devi, and actor Dipankar De joined the film stars from Bollywood and the state chief minister in the ceremonial lamp lighting ceremony at the second-oldest film festival in the country.
Creative dancer Sukalyann Bhattacharya and his entourage presented a 10-minute performance that depicted a century of Indian cinema, called "Down Memory Lane".
A packed audience applauded as Jaya Bachchan and Mithun Chakraborty -- both Bengalis -- took to the mike to express their delight at being in the city.
Jaya, looking stunning in a bright red silk saree, was seen chatting with Chief Minister Banerjee, who also exchanged words with King Khan during the speeches.
SRK lauded Banerjee's enthusiasm and zeal in conducting the film festival. Looking dapper in a grey-black tuxedo and a stylish ponytail, King Khan paid homage to late filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh.
In his role as Bengal's brand ambassador, SRK welcomed international and national dignitaries to the festival in Kolkata, which he dubbed the "greatest, the most charming, and the most loving city in the world".
"Festivals like this one are expressions of collective happiness over life, I think. I hope creative interactions of this scale help Indian films reach the height that great filmmakers present tonight, as well as those who passed away, like the wonderful Rituparno, had dreamt of," said Khan, who also remembered Satyajit Ray on the occasion.
Taking the stage, Haasan uttered the lyrics of the song "Shuno Shuno Go Shobe" from his 1977 Bengali film "Kabita".
Hailing Banerjee as a "sister", the versatile actor also highlighted the importance of film festivals in his journey into filmdom.
"The only Bengali I know is 'Shuno Shuno Go Shobe'. All I have learned is from cinema. The best place for me to acquire more knowledge than with sitting under the feet of masters is to come to film festivals. They have inspired me, taught me and spurred me to make films of my own."
Greeted by tumultuous applause was Big B who had enthralled audience last year with his "Banglar Jamai" address. Looking regal in a black bandhgala, he started off with words in Bangla and relayed the importance of cinema as a "unifier" and "integrator".
Speaking in Bengali, Amitabh Bachchan conveyed to the audience the nostalgia he felt in returning to Kolkata. He narrated the journey of Bengali cinema and highlighted its contributions to Indian cinema in his baritone, to a bewitched, packed house.
Humbly dressed in her trademark white cotton saree, Chief Minister Banerjee congratulated each of the participants and reiterated the amalgamation of Bollywood, Hollywood and Tollywood. She described Big B as an "icon of filmworld" and appreciated his words on the history of Bengali cinema.
"Tollywood, Bollywood, Hollywood, technicians, sports world and cultural personalities all are present. I am really grateful to all," the chief minister said.
An unreleased film "Taak Jhaank" of the iconic Rituparno Ghosh was screened for the first time to signal the start of the festival.
Screened across 13 venues in the city, the gala affair will witness around 3,000 delegates and 24 international guests. It will show 189 films from 63 countries over eight days.