Kolkata: With Bollywood`s `Badshah` Shahrukh Khan and `Kashmir Ki Kali` Sharmila Tagore by her side, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has taken the hitherto elite Kolkata Film Festival to the masses while giving the exponents of the popular genre of Bengali films a pride of place in the fest.
As the ceremonial extravaganza unfolded at the sprawling Netaji Indoor Stadium, instead of its usual venue, the Nandan Film Centre, and a galaxy of cinema stars descended, the atmosphere echoed with loud claps and cheers.
Actors Dev, Jishu Sengupta, June Maliah, Locket Chatterjee, Subhashree, and director Haranath Chakraborty were some of the celebrities present.
Banerjee, true to her mass leader image, threw open the gates of the inauguration ceremony for the commoners who had to only purchase Rs.10 worth tickets to share the evening with their beloved stars.
She also used the opportunity to strengthen her bonding with the mainstream Bengali film industry popularly known as Tollywood, to which she has been cosying up since the May, 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
All her mega events nowadays are characterised by a fair sprinkling of popular Tollywood stars.
The chief minister continued to make it to the hearts of legends from various fields as she used the occasion to felicitate cine stars of the olden times.
Several such iconic figures whom she had feted on an earlier occasion had lauded her and at the same breath lamented the lack of such recognition during the erstwhile Left Front regime.
Banerjee`s endeavour to use the festival platform to get closer to the masses and popular cinema was praised by many, including filmmaker Sandip Ray, son of the legendary Satyajit Ray.
"It was surely a magnificent affair. The involvement of the Tollywood industry is surely a welcome change and I am sure the fest will play a role in promoting the industry," Sandip Ray told reporters.
The presence of the cine stars and the commoners at the event was a far cry from the earlier editions of the fest when the audience mostly comprised critically-acclaimed international and national filmmakers and actors.
The Trinamool Congress chief, a consistent newsmaker, however, had some bad press after her political opponents tore into her for alleged involvement in the release of two of her party men detained by police for rioting.
While whether she did or did not "storm" the police station to get her men released would remain a debating point, many in the political circles feel she needs to change her old habit of rushing into things which gave her popularity as a feisty opposition leader but could boomerang when she is in power.
Banerjee, a person of volatile temperament who is rather infamous for her political flip- flops, provided much-needed fodder to her opponents when she retracted from her apparent pullout threat to alliance partner Congress over the latest hike in petroleum prices.
The pullout threat brought to the fore the tenuous relationship between the alliance partners, both at the centre and the state.