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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. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



IFFI 51, 16-24 January, 2021, 17: Inaugural speeches and performances

IFFI 51, 16-24 January, 2021, 17: Inaugural speeches and performances

The 51st edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) got off with enthralling cultural performances amidst a dazzling ceremony celebrating the joy of cinema. The indoor Indoor Stadium at Panaji in Goa reverberated with the passion of a few film-stars, few film-makers and many film-lovers from around the world.

The Opening Ceremony of Asia’s oldest and India’s biggest film festival was competently hosted by actor, author and film-producer Tisca Chopra, and had the presence of eminent film-maker Priyadarshan Nair, and noted Kannada actor Sudeep (Kichcha), who the Chief Guest. The function also saw the presence of Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Prakash Javadekar and Chief Minister of Goa, Pramod Sawant, among other dignitaries.

Speaking on the occasion, Sudeep, also known as Kichcha Sudeep, said, “Let Cinema be the new pandemic”. He said, “Cinema is one fraternity that, from one seat, takes you all around the world, gets you the knowledge, gets you closer to the culture of every fraternity across the world”.

Addressing the audience, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Prakash Javadekar said that 600 International entries and 190 Indian entries have been received this year, reflecting the huge importance the world attaches to IFFI.

Javadekar announced, on the occasion of 100th birth anniversary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founder-liberator of BanglaDesh, the two countries are together making a film, titled BangaBandhu, which is what he was lovingly called.

Jadavekar said, unlike other countries, India has multiple favourable destinations for shooting. Hence, we need to promote ‘Shoot in India’.

In the context of Film Bazaar, the Union Minister said, film is not only a source of entertainment, but also a big market. “Human being is an imaginative being; films, which appeal to the imagination, make us laugh, cry and make us one, united in the story. If the story is told well, the film will become popular.” The Minister said that we will make a beginning of private participation in film IFFI, from the 52nd IFFI. He said that the 51st edition of IFFI will run on seven screens, and on mobiles and TVs, and will reach the whole world.

The Chief Minister of Goa, Pramod Sawant invited Indian and global film makers to look at Goa as a preferred destination for film-making. "The annual IFFI gives an opportunity to members of film fraternity from across the world to explore the jewel from the west coast of India", he said.

The High Commissioner of BanglaDesh to India, Mohammad Imran, was also present on the occasion. BanglaDesh is the focus country of the festival this year. Apart from the recognition of the creativity and ingenuity of the film-makers of BanglaDesh, it is also a testimony of the depth of relations and a historic bond between the two neighbouring countries, said the High Commissioner. “We thank the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, for organising this festival in this challenging time. It shows the commitment and courage you have to face and overcome the challenging situation as well as your passion and love for arts and culture”, he further said.  The delegates will be treated to ten of the best films from the focus country BanglaDesh, showcasing the country’s cinematic excellence and contributions to the world of cinema.

The Lifetime Achievement in the 51st IFFI has been given to Italian cinematographer Mr. Vittorio Storaro. In a video message, Mr. Storaro thanked IFFI for recognizing his journey. The legendary cinematographer said that he owes the incredible visual journey he had, to his colleagues and great directors like Bernardo Bertolucci, Francis Coppola, Carlos Oliveira and Woody Allen. “They led me in a special way, like in an orchestra, to use my language of light”, he said. In a word of advice to young cinematographers, he said, “Study, research, prepare yourself. Love what you do, only if you love and believe in something, you can make it”.

“India is a wonderful universe which allows us to continue dreaming day by day, since everything is possible in India”, said Chairman of International Jury, Argentinian Film Director Pablo Cesar, in a video message.

The 14th Edition of NFDC Film Bazaar was also virtually launched by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on the occasion, by pressing a button. The Film Bazaar will be held virtually but it will include all sections usually held in previous editions. Film Bazaar is the largest South Asian film market. It encourages creative and financial collaboration between the South Asian and International film communities.

A trailer of the festival’s opening film ‘Another Round’, by Danish film-maker Thomas Vinterberg, was played in the opening ceremony. “As a starting point, this was a pure celebration of alcohol, but it grew into a celebration of life”, said the Director in a video message. The movie is Denmark’s official entry to the Oscars and stars Cannes Best Actor Award winner Mads Mikkelsen.

The following video messages projected on the occasion:

“ I congratulate all the participants of the 51st IFFI’ - Anupam Kher

“What an amazing way to kick-start 2021 by celebrating some of the finest cinematic works from across the globe” – Ayushmann Khurrana

“IFFI is something we all film-enthusiasts look forward to. One of the most prestigious festivals in the world” – Anil Kapoor

What better way to kick-start 2021 than by celebrating some of the finest cinematic works from across the globe” – Madhuri Dixit

“Congratulations IFFI, on bringing in your 51st edition” – Ranveer Singh

“Go and watch some great films” – Siddhant Chaturvedi

“…..I am so glad that despite the pandemic and the trials the year has put us through, IFFI has been held with all safety precautions put in place” – Vidya Balan

“It has become abundantly clear that the internet is changing the way in which people experience watching movies. I am sure the Goa film festival will explore reinvent or reframe the film festival experience itself. I see such online festivals becoming popular as being a way of building up a community. This, perhaps, will be the new norm of interacting with film festivals, especially with the film-makers, actors and technicians from around the globe. ” – Mohan Lal

Festival Director Chaitanya Prasad said: “The 51st edition has written a new narrative where other film festivals in the world will get a new template of excellence. Referring to Resurgent India, Inspirational India and the idea of New India, we have positioned this festival through the medium of films. This festival has taught us how to weave content with technology; we are extremely happy that we have come up with a hybrid festival, the next few days are going to set the standards for other film festivals.”

In her welcome address, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Neerja Shekhar, said, we remain committed to further promote the film sector in the country and look forward towards actively promoting the AVGC sector as well. Chief Secretary of Goa, Puneet Kumar; CEO-Entertainment Society of Goa, Amit Satija; Secretary General of Film Federation of India and IFFI Streening Committee Member and Ravi Kottarakara were also present, from amongst the senior functionaries of the Government of India.

The cultural performances in the opening ceremony specially focussed on the local folk culture and music of Goa - a place that has been home to IFFI since 2004.


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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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