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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 Goa 2014, Festival Diary, Part III


IFFI Goa 2014, Festival Diary, Part III

A bit of luck meant that I got a room at Hotel Neptune Deluxe at an affordable rate. My room was on the fourth floor, and, for an inexplicable reason, the lift only serviced floors 2 to 4, in the five storey building, where only floors 3 and 4 were occupied by the hotel. A staff-boy helped me carry my luggage till the second floor, and I settled in Room 116. The number has significance for film-buffs, for Secret Agent 116 featured in several hit Indian films of the late 60s/early 70s. I was warned that the air-conditioning was not strong, the lapse being compensated by a good fan. Since I do not like extreme temperatures, that situation was fine. Funnily, it was the fan that broke down that very day and took three days to return, duly repaired. Meanwhile, I was provided a stand-fan, on demand. The room has heavy, with large, iron furniture that would have made it impossible for two persons to stay there. For a single person, it was just about okay. The wet market right opposite facilitated picking up  and storing fruit, while the provision store almost next door meant easy access to bread, toast and biscuits, even as late as 10.30 pm. And yes, I must mention the Ice-Cream Parlour, cross the road--evil indulgences in a place that once housed a male hair salon. Unable to get good workers, the owner switched to ice-cream, and now operates the popular hangout with help from his brother, a two-man show.

INOX cinemas and the Festival complex of old Government Medical College (GMC) building+Maquinez Palace is a mere 100 metres away. Normally, that would ensure that one could reach the venue in less than five minutes after coming out of my hotel. No such luck. As has been the norm for the last few years, the approach road was blocked and declared out of bounds to both vehicular traffic and pedestrians. One can understand the concern as regards vehicles, but why prevent delegates and media-persons from entering the complex from the nearest point of access? It is my considered estimate after attending 11 IFFIs in Panaji that up to 700 persons, many of them senior citizens and with some movement issues, stay in the hotels and guest houses that would have had direct access to the venue from the road near the back-side of the Panaji market. If security was a concern, the authorities could have posted a maximum of two personnel to police the point, as they always do at the3/4 other points. Why block the road altogether? Other journalists and I have made several representations to the authorities in past 2/3 years, but nothing has convinced them yet. As a result, 700+ attendees have to circumvent the approach road, pass through the dirty market as well as its outer main road near the bus stop (equally dirty) and cover 500 metres instead of 100. In terms of time, they have to spend between 10-12 minutes extra, often resulting in missing a show entirely or at the very least, missing some part of a film (several films, if they return to their hotels and go back).

Some of the films in the Indian Panorama were screened before the festival proper began. This is the norm. As many 26 films were selected altogether, which must be some sort of record. The norm is 14-21. Critics Gautaman Bhaskaran and Utpal Borpujari, the ‘usual suspects’, were part of the selection committee. Of these 26, I managed to see only Teenkahon (Bengali/debutant director Baudhhayan Mukherji), a ‘triptych’, in full. The three stories were interesting the film is worth a watch, with gripping performances. At a press conference, Bauddhayan, who is one of India's leading advertisement film directors, said that Teenkahon is a story of obsessive love depicted through three separate stories spanning 100 years, starting from 1920s to 2013. The director said he has been influenced by Satyajit Ray, especially in the shooting of the first story. His next feature film will be a Hindi film, he disclosed. “There is no running away from Bollywood, I would like to belong to it,” he said. His wife, and producer of the film, Monalisa Mukherji, said that working in a husband-wife team keeps them in perfect sync.

Elizabeth Ekadashi (Marathi/Prakash Mokashi, who made Harishchandrachi Factory) was a big let-down, partly because it was over-hyped. As any international film festival, with so many options and so much to do, it becomes extremely difficult to appreciate a film that takes a long time just to establish its characters and build up an ambience. Some felt it was preposterous to do so, but I walked out, nevertheless. Not because it was bad, but because it was very slow and a let-down. And mind you, it was the opening film in the Indian Panorama section. I could not get a seat for Killa (Marathi, talk of the festival and also of MFF) and though I had a ticket for Drishyam (Malayalam, also talk of the festival), I had to give priority to a writing assignment that clashed with the show timing. Kuttram Kadithal (Malayalam) and Adim Vichar (Odiya) could not hold my interest either, and I had to do what I did in Elizabeth. Wonder what selection committee Chairperson A.K. Bir saw in the Oriya film to use his prerogative and recall it after the members had rejected it in his absence.


Shabnam Sukhdev’s documentary on her acclaimed documentary-maker father, late S. Sukhdev, titled The Last Adieu, was the opening film in the non-feature section of the Indian Panorama. Produced by the Films Division, the body that backed many of Sukhdev’s efforts, it was a good choice. Shabnam teaches cinema at a Pune media institute, and the film is competently made, even if you are not familiar with the works of Sukhdev, who, incidentally, also directed the feature films My Love and Reshma Aur Shera (producer/actor Sunil Dutt took over the megaphone at an advanced stage, fearing that the film was taking the shape of an indulgent documentary, thereby minimising the chances of its success at the box office. Sukhdev was not credited in the titles).


Teenkahon: ***

The Last Adieu: ***

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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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