The 22nd edition of the week-long Kolkata International Film Festival begins here on Friday under the shadow of demonetisation with organisers roping in the Whos Who of Bollywood and a galaxy of global cine personalities to kick-start the event with the usual punch.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday announced the presence of megastar Amitabh Bachchan, his wife and actress Jaya, stars Shah Rukh Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Kajol, and Parineeti Chopra at the inaugural ceremony.

China will feature as the focus country in the annual cine extravaganza organised by the state government.

A delegation of at least eight persons from the Chinese government and film industry will attend the fest, which will screen as many as seven films from the neighbouring country.

As many as 15 films from 13 countries have been selected for the international competition (Best Film by a Woman Director and Best Woman Director).

Despite the hours inching closer to the opening, a distinct lack of buzz at the venue – the Nandan theatre complex – was conspicuous. In fact, the absence of usual traffic snarls at the site of the theatre cluster in the busy Rabindra Sadan area in south Kolkata was noticeable.

Workers were occupied in putting final touches to the decor.

Asked on the low-key atmosphere, one replied it was due to the rush in banks to exchange and deposit the withdrawn Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denominations.

“People are in banks. The focus has shifted to money and that is the common man’s main worry and not tickets to watch films,” a worker told IANS while framing up the banners.

Banerjee has also been vocal against the rushed nature of the move going to the extent of dubbing it an “all-India unannounced strike”.

However, she remains firm on her resolve to ensure people get to celebrate the best of cinema.

“It’s truly cinema for all, all for cinemaa,” she posted on Facebook.

The regional focus is on Marathi films.

The fest will pay tribute to late American screen icon Gregory Peck and Kanan Devi, dubbed as the first superstar of Indian cinema, with the ongoing year marking her centenary.

Six films of Japanese film director and screenwriter Kenji Mizoguchi will be showcased in the ‘Great Master’ segment.

Homage will be paid to Australian filmmaker Paul Cox and Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami (who passed away this year) and others.

The festival will also remember the 450th death anniversary of William Shakespeare by screening some of the major film adaptations of the bard’s works.

Among additions, debuting this year is the international competition in innovation in moving images with nine films from seven countries.

A segment on biopic documentary has been introduced in the 22nd edition.

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