Amitabh Bachchan was unable to attend the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival 2019 due to a health emergency. Now, a video on the internet shows the actor reading out the speech he was to deliver, along with an apology.
Amitabh Bachchan, who was unable to attend 25th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) this year due to poor health, interacted with the audience through the medium of video conference. This video was released at the closing ceremony of the event and it is going viral on the internet.
“On the 8th of November 2019, was the inauguration of KIFF in one of my most favourite cities Kolkata at a kind invitation of Chief Minister Mamata Di (Banerjee). Unfortunately due to certain circumstances, I was unable to be there. But since I had prepared a speech, I thought it is apt to read it out to you in hope that you will forgive me for by absence (sic),” Bachchan said at the beginning of his speech.
“Thank you Mamata Di for your persistence in inviting me to this prestigious Kolkata International Film Festival yet again. And my wishes and greetings to you in the film fraternity and the silver jubilee celebration of KIFF,” Big B added.
In the video, Bachchan also expressed concerns over the future of movie theatres in the age of digital entertainment. He suggested that films should be released first on big screens and then on online platforms and devices, but cautioned that realistic pricing of tickets and good content were a must to draw people out of their homes.
“Today, when men and women are toiling in the Indian film industry shoulder to shoulder, we also have several options for viewing content in the comfort of our homes. Yet the thrill of watching movies on the big screen remains unmatched,” Bachchan said.
“We need to find ways to protect these traditions. I like the idea of pictures first showing in cinema halls, and then, perhaps, going to streaming and other devices. I am a loyalist to that degree,” he added.
Speaking on the role of cinema in the ever-growing digital space, Big B said that as audiences’ tastes fast move to fresh digital content or online streaming, “it would be most worthwhile to draw attention to the core fact that films are primarily made for entertainment, drawing large audiences to the big screen.”
However, he wondered what the future holds in the realm of movie viewing.
“Will the allure of cinema watched in move halls soon become nostalgic memories? Will studios gobble each other up, and smaller movies struggle to survive and big brand titles tank at the box office,” he asked.
He pointed out that digital platforms like Netflix and Amazon are revolutionising the way one watches films, while several other streaming services are also now available in India. He cited examples of films like Gone with the Wind, Mughal-e-Azam, Jalshaghar, Lawrence of Arabia, saying that these classics can be watched on the small screens but it will lack the excitement.
“So what happens next? 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 Jalshaghar be captured with the same amount of sensitivity on a small laptop or on a mobile phone? What about David Lean’s Lawrence Of Arabia? Can its magnificent panorama be confined to limited digital space,” asked Bachchan, the recipient of Dadasaheb Phalke award.
“Yet, all said and done, watching a film on the big screen must remain enticing and realistically priced. Content must be the undisputed king to draw people out of their sofas on lazy Sunday afternoons,” the actor said.
In his speech, he also said that those involved with film making must also keep a note of the tastes of the knowledgeable modern-day youth.
“Young viewers today have been exposed to international cinema, television, and the arts. They want high-quality entertainment, avenues to satisfy their evolved sensibilities. So we must pledge to give it to them with the same enthusiasm as our early pioneers,” Bachchan added.
At the opening ceremony of KIFF 2019, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had confirmed that Amitabh Bachchan will not attend the event.
“Amitabhji comes here every time. But he could not turn up. Since last night he is unwell. So doctors have restricted his movements. He is suffering a lot since last night,” Banerjee told IANS.
“Today though he could not come, I believe Amitji’s mind is with this festival. We cannot think of this film festival without him,” Banerjee had added.
KIFF 2019’s opening ceremony was attended by Shah Rukh Khan, Sourav Ganguly, and other stalwarts.