Big B speaks up on ‘growing intolerance’, says Indian films taught to banish communal prejudices

Amitabh Bachchan on Saturday recalled the contribution of Indian cinema in fostering social unity, communal amity and love at a time when “cultures are being questioned and prejudices against communities are dividing the world”. “The Indian cinema from its beginning has taught us the lessons of finding love, justice and social unity. And most importantly the banishment of communal prejudices and hatred,” Bachchan said during his inaugural speech at the 21st Kolkata International Film Festival. “It is essential to recall the lessons of equality and cultural diversity taught by Rabindranath Tagore at a time when cultures are being questioned and prejudices against communities are dividing the world.”

The 73-year-old star said that Bengal’s strength always has been its intellectual integrity and open-mindedness that both writers and filmmakers have highlighted on the screen. “These age-old values are once again being highlighted in Indian cinema. These values constantly emphasise deep belief in equality and social justice,” the actor said. Quoting from Tagore’s poetry, Bachchan said the Bard’s lines should be remembered for “signifying Mother India’s unconditional love for all children and are relevant in holding together India’s diversity and the spirit of equality.” Bachchan’s comments come amid the ongoing debate on intolerance in the country which has led to several writers, filmmakers and eminent personalities returning their awards.

The actor said he feels truly blessed to be born in a country which has always believed in cultural diversity and pluralism. While lauding the contributions of Bengali cinema and its various stalwarts, he said their movies uphold tolerance of diversities. “Cinema with Bengali background have always put up pan India character based on our time-tested values, the source of our core strength as a society and our tolerance of diversities. That is essential for a common mosaic of various ethnic communities and sects.”