Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) authorities are contemplating screening one film each of Gregory Peck, one of the greatest Hollywood actors, and Kanan Devi, the first star of Bengali cinema, at the festival, to mark their birth centenary. The festival opens at Nandan on November 11.
Like every year, KIFF authorities will be paying centenary tribute to stalwarts from the world of cinema. Both Gregory Peck and Kanan Devi were born in 1916, and given their contribution towards cinema, the festival authorities couldn’t have ignored paying tribute to them. If everything goes according to plan, one of veteran actor Bikash Roy’s (also born in 1916) films too might be screened. Bikash Roy did films like Maruthirtha Hinglaj, Uttar Phalguni, Chaddabesi, Surjyo Toron and Neel Akaser Niche.
This year Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, whose film Taste of Cherry won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, also passed away. Besides, the death of Australian filmmaker Paul Cox, who lost his battle to cancer on June 18, 2016, also left film lovers in shock. If sources are to be believed, KIFF authorities also have plans of screening one film each of Kiarostami and Cox in its Homage section.
Cox had a long association with Kolkata. His documentary, Calcutta (1971) was highly appreciated. In 2014, Cox was present at the inauguration of KIFF and was also heading the jury. The same year, Cox’s last film, Force of Destiny (2015), which talks about organ donation, and how his close shave with death made him understand life better, was screened to a packed house at Nandan. While he was at the cancer ward battling for life, he wrote the script of Force of Destiny, without knowing if he would be alive or not to direct it. Cox had also written a memoir, Tales from the Cancer Ward, which was also launched at KIFF, 2014. “Paul Cox is very dear to filmgoers in Kolkata. So, I am sure the audience will watch his film at KIFF,” says a source.
Cox didn’t believe in reincarnation but he was a firm believer in the power of the universe. In 2014, on the sidelines of KIFF, he told HT, “I am surviving because of a liver from a young dead man. We make a lot of noise when we are alive and then die slowly. What are we really doing in our lifetime? In the film, we are celebrating life.”
However, none of the committee members of KIFF are willing to divulge details on the films. Sources reveal Kanan Devi’s Mukti (1937) might be screened as part of centenary tribute to the legendary actress-singer.
Shyamal Karmakar, professor, head of department, editing, Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI), says Gregory Peck remains an iconic figure in world cinema. “Can you imagine any other actor but only Gregory Peck in director J Lee Thompson’s Mackenna’s Gold (1969)? We didn’t know much about Rajnikanth then but we had watched every film of Gregory Peck,” says Karmakar.
The filmmaker also says that it will be interesting to watch a film of Kanan Devi at the fest. “Kanan Devi didn’t have an ordinary life. Her struggle is extraordinary. She is one of the most important actresses of our cinema,” says Karmakar, who also informs that he encourages students at SRFTI to watch films at KIFF.