MUMBAI – The cream of Bollywood was out in force at the opening of the 18th Mumbai Film Festival on Thursday. Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan inaugurated proceedings and called for a permanent hub for the festival that is currently spread out at venues across the city. The opening was at the newly restored 104-year-old Royal Opera House that had fallen into disrepair decades ago.

The festival opened under the shadow of the current tense political relationship between India and Pakistan, resulting in the pulling of 1959 Pakistani classic “The Day Shall Dawn” (“Jago Hua Savera”) from the program. Acknowledging this, festival director Anupama Chopra spoke of living in an atmosphere that is “fractured and confused”. “I won’t lie. It has been difficult,” Chopra said during her opening remarks.

But as is often the case in Mumbai, Bollywood rode to the rescue, papering over the fractures. Veteran actress Jaya Bachchan presented the Indian “Excellence in Cinema” award to director Sai Paranjpye, known for classics like “Sparsh” and “Chashme Buddoor.”

Bollywood superstar, Aamir Khan presented the international “Excellence in Cinema” award to Chinese auteur Jia Zhangke. “There are a lot of disparities in our societies and these can be solved by the movies,” Jia said during his acceptance speech.

Bollywood stars like Abhay Deol, Richa Chaddha, Kunal Kapoor and Huma Qureshi are serving on festival juries. International jurors include Yonfan, Reha Erdem, Stephanie Zachrek, Tala Hadid, Christine Vachon and Chris McDonald.

Festival sponsor Reliance Industries’ Nita Ambani announced a new award that will start next year – the Jio MAMI Award for Excellence in Digital Narrative Content. “Through this award we want to discover and celebrate, the talent and potential of our youth,” Ambani said.

The evening concluded with an all-vegetarian repast hosted by Mukesh Ambani and Nita Ambani at their $1 billion dollar private residence, Antilla.