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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 52, 052: Veterans not allowed to contribute

IFFI 52, 052: Veterans not allowed to contribute

Among International Film Festival of India (IFFI)’s regular attendees, one man claims that he attended the first ever IFFI, held in 1952, as a 16 year-old. I am not aware whether there was any age restriction back in 1952, but for several decades since then, you cannot attend an IFFI unless you are 18 years old. He was there at IFFI 52, 2021, too. That would make him 85 years old. He confesses he missed out on two IFFIs, but has attended all the others. That means he made his score 50 last November. In spite of a walking stick that he has started using for the last few years, he looked good enough to go another five years at least. His name: Brij Bhushan Chaturvedi, alias BBC, from Indore.

BBC publishes an annual film directory, a compilation of his articles, and also contributes to some Hindi publications occasionally. At IFFI 50, I made a case for honouring veterans like him. The suggestion was welcomed by the Chief Minister of Goa and the Director of IFFI. They asked me to compile a list of veterans who had attended the maximum number of festivals and had been film critics for a very long time. I did what I could, at very short notice, listing only those who were present at the said festival. That was the last one heard of it. Umpteen reminders to both parties drew no response whatsoever. Among my suggestions were 1. Such persons should be honoured publicly at either the inaugural or the closing function of IFFI and 2. They should be invited to serve on various committees of IFFI and treated on par with the other members. Of course, only 2-3 persons should be given these privileges every year, beginning with the senior-most of them all, BBC. AT IFFI 52, I am told that the Press Information Bureau did some token honouring of BBC, without even informing me, in the media room. But it cannot, and should not, end there.

My reworked proposal is to honour those who have completed 50 years or more in film criticism and/or those who have attended 30 IFFIs or more. Besides the honouring, with a plaque and/or a shawl and a certificate, they must be made part of some committee of the festival: Organising Committee, Steering Committee, Selection Committee, etc. After serving a maximum of two terms in this capacity, they would make way for their successors. To verify their credentials, IFFI should demand their accreditation badges/cards and, in the case of critics, published reviews. It is possible that some of them might not have preserved all the badges or they may not have preserved reviews written 50 years ago. In such cases, a supporting evidence should be allowed. 

Taking a case in point, I believe I have attended 34-36 IFFIs. These include the IFFI variant called Filmotsav, which was held every alternate year, the first two being held in 1975 and 1976, in successive years. Altogether eight such Filmostavs were held. My participation began with Filmotsav 1976, held in Mumbai, wherein I was part of the Organising Committee and Selection Committee, of the 16 mm film package. Thus, I missed the earlier six festivals, held between 1952 and 1975. Later, when I was working in Singapore, I managed to come for IFFI during only four or five of my eight years there, 1996-2004. I am now 70 years old and attended my first festival in 1976, when I was 24. Since then, there have been 45 more festivals (IFFI skipped 2001, in the aftermath of 9/11). So far, I have been able to trace only 30 of my 34-36 badges, though I am hopeful of finding the missing ones. Moreover, I am sure there will be my writings on the festivals, where the badges are untraceable, to support my claims. On the film criticism side, I have a clipping of a film review that dates back to 1970, 51 years ago. Nevertheless, those who can establish their credentials earlier than me should get precedence over me in being honoured and invited to serve on committees.

Yes, I know, all this is wishful thinking. The powers that be are not likely to take any note of my recommendations, and the token honour given to BBC might remain the only gesture the authorities will have shown towards veterans who can contribute so much, with their experiences and expertise. An overwhelming majority of the persons who staff Directorate of Film Festivals and Entertainment Society of Goa are bureaucrats, with the film people only coming in as Committee Members. You might have attended more than 40 IFFIs and might have been a film critic since 1970, but when it comes to active participation in organising IFFI, only the famous and the well-connected will find favour. Amen.

This is the last instalment of my coverage of IFFI 52. It is the 52nd Part. At IFFI 51, I had written 51 articles. I am sure both these efforts must qualify for some kind of record. So long as you, my readers, found the pieces interesting, I do not need any other recognition or reward.


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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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