KOLKATA: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday lauded Bengali filmmakers for their message of unity in diversity for decades and said the state will never bow its head before others.
Bengal has produced a number of award-winning filmmakers and the largest number of Nobel Prize winners in the country, she said inaugurating the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival.
Banerjee's comment was an apparent answer to Union Home Minister Amit Shah's statement that Bengal is lagging behind in scientific and cultural development.
"Bengal is number one in terms of giving the country award-winning filmmakers. The state has produced the largest numbers of Nobel Prize winners in the country. We are number one in scientific and cultural development in the country," Banerjee said without naming either Shah or the BJP.
Shah, who is also the BJP national president, during a visit to West Bengal in October had criticised the TMC government for destroying Bengal saying the state which was once known for religious, scientific and cultural development is now known for "bomb-making factories".
Banerjee said, "We are not jealous of others. Neither do we have any negative attitude towards any competition. We have a positive approach towards everybody."
"As long as we live we will fight and never bow our heads before anyone," the TMC supremo said.
She lauded filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, who was one of the invitees at the programme, saying he is very outspoken and dares to speak his mind when others are scared to do so.
In apparent support to Banerjee's call for equal importance to all regional languages, Bhatt said no one should impose a language on others and must allow everyone to speak their mother tongue.
Bhatt said the greatness of India lies in its diversity.
Superstar Shah Rukh Khan inaugurated the film festival at the Netaji Indoor stadium in the presence of a galaxy of stars from Bollywood, Bengali cinema and foreign dignitaries.
Khan, who was accompanied by Banerjee and yesteryear Bollywood actor Rakhee Gulzar, lit the ceremonial lamp.
Germany's Oscar-winning director Volker Schlondorff and BCCI President and former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly were also present at the programme.
Satyajit Ray's 'Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne' was the inaugural film of the festival as this is the 50th year of its release.
Germany will be the focus country this year.
Altogether 367 films - 214 feature films and 153 short documentary works from 76 countries will be screened during the eight-day festival.