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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



IFFI 50: Opening highlights

IFFI 50: Opening highlights

A star-studded opening hosted the King of Bollywood Amitabh Bachchan, and legendary Rajinikanth, who flagged off the extravaganza at the Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium, Bambolim, Goa, on 20th November.

Official dignitaries present at the launch of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2019 were Honourable Information and Broadcasting (I & B) Minister in the Central Government, Prakash Javdekar, Honourable Chief Minister of Goa, Dr. Pramod Sawant, CEO, Entertainment Society of Goa, Amit Satija and Festival Director and Chaitanya Prasad. Also present was Babul Supriyo, Union Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, who is also a renowned singer. Babul sand a few lines from an Ilaiya Raja song, paying tribute to him, as the great composer from Chennai was also present on the occasion

The stars walked the red carpet that was laid out to welcome the who’s who of the industry. Isabelle Huppert, the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award, speaking on the red carpet said, “I feel very happy to be here. I hope it’s a halfway lifetime achievement award. I’ve had many wonderful moments in my work life and worked with so many great directors.”

As the lights illuminated the center stage and cameras rolled, host Karan Johar welcomed the gathering. The festival began with a tribute to Goa’s stalwart politician, the late Manohar Parrikar, former Defence Minister in the Central Government and a former Chief Minister of Goa, who hosted the first IFFI in Goa.

Secretary, Information and Broadcasting Ministry, Amit Khare, mentioned the noteworthy highlights of this year’s festival and noted the tremendous change in the last 50 editions from participation of 23 countries in 1952, to almost 76 countries this year.

Honourable Chief Minister of Goa, Pramod Sawant extended a warm welcome to all the dignitaries and highlighted his plan in making Goa an important destination for film shooting. He said, “IFFI package this year is an interesting mix of leisure and entertainment. IFFI bridges the gap between India and the international film industry, and provides the opportunity to explore the cinema. We should not forget the objectives of cinema as the mirror of our time and the reflection of our society.”

Speaking of India’s soft powers--film, IT and music--I & B Minister Prakash Javdekar said, “India has lots of scenic and beautiful shooting sites for national and international films but shooting at these locations requires around 15-20 permissions. Government is now preparing for a single-window arrangement, which will take care of all the permissions, and it will benefit places like Goa, Leh-Ladakh and Andaman & Nicobar Islands.”

Javdekar also mentioned a special film made by a Goan film-maker for the visually impaired. “It is important that they enjoy cinema. We watch movies through our eyes and ears. They watch movies only through their ears. Film world should have such sensibility. Based on the narration, the scene will be explained.”

At the announcement of Russia, the Country Focus, Maria Lemesheva, head of delegation, expressed her gratitude in her country being selected, and spoke of the revival of cinema in Russia over the past few years. “This year the, Government has announced a 40 percent rebate for foreign films being made in Russia,” she said.

Amidst cheers of adoring fans, superstar Rajinikanth graciously accepted the Icon of the Golden Jubilee award and said, “I dedicate the award to all the producers, directors and technicians who worked in my films, my fans and people of Tamil Nadu.”

Amitabh Bachchan expressed his honour in being invited, and stated, “I have no words to express my gratitude to IFFI for honouring me and having a retrospective of my films. Films have always been an integral part of our social life. To have a festival of this magnitude in Goa exposes the Goans to what happens in the international world and also gives them an opportunity to meet and mix with people. This is a debt on my head of your love and affection. I would not be able to repay the debt and I would not want to, because I would like to keep it forever.”

At the felicitation of the members of the juries for the competition sections, John Bailey, Chairperson of the International Jury said, “We are very honoured to be here. We have a lot of work in front of us. We’ll be looking at a total of 22 films and watching some 4 films a day.”

To commemorate the grand occasion, a special postage stamp was released by the dignitaries. The mesmerising fusion music performance by the greats of music, with Shankar Mahadevan, Louis Banks, and others, added a sparkling touch to the festivities.

In his vote of thanks, Festival Director, Chaitanya Prasad said, “I am completely overwhelmed by the sheer support we have received and would like to thank the officials and steering committee members for the combined team effort.”

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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