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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 2017, VI: Sexy Durga and Nude--two films you will not see

IFFI Goa 2017, VI: Sexy Durga and Nude--two films you will not see

Since the first screening as a work in progress film in the NFDC Film Bazaar, held in Goa, 2016, Sexy Durga (Malayalam) received good reviews from the viewers. Also talked about ever since it was launched was the Marathi film, Nude. Both were selected by the selections juries to be shown at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) Goa 2017, which begins in a week from now. Both have since been removed from the list, and replaced. Read on to learn how and why.

A report in the reputed daily newspaper of India, the Telegraph, confirms the omissions. It adds that many of the 13 members of the films jury of the Indian Panorama section are learnt to have sent individual mails to the ministry, expressing unhappiness over the changes in their list.

Some jury members and the director of Sexy Durga, Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, said the films could have been dropped merely because of their names and that the content had nothing controversial. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), which cleared the movie before the festival, had suggested the name change, to which the film-maker agreed, as no cuts were suggested. It was shown at the Mumbai Film Festival last month under the title S*** Durga. A fellow critic went to the extent of stating "that was arguably one of the finest movies that this writer saw here (at the Film Bazaar)". My own reviewette appears at the bottom.

Two members of the jury confirmed to The Telegraph that Nude had not only topped their list in order of preference, but had also been voted as the Indian Panorama section's inaugural film. That honour has now gone to Pihu. One member also confirmed the inclusion of Sexy Durga.

None in the DFF or the ministry responded to phone calls and text messages from the Telegraph.

Sexy Durga opens in the middle of a festival, as Durga (Rajshree Deshpandey/Angry Indian Goddesses) and Kabeer (Vishnu Vedh) in rural Kerala are running for their lives, to escape the anger of their parents, and hitch a ride to the nearest railway station. Four punkish young men, of indistinct personalities, offer to give them a ride in a small van, in which a broken head of Goddess Durga dangles symbolically. The ‘scattershot’/disjointed film intercuts gory local Garoodam Thookam rituals, shot documentary style, with the never-ending road run plight of the couple.

Sanal Kumar Sasidharan, known for Six Feet High and An Off Day Play, won a Film Bazaar Recommends credit for social satire. Sasidharan is one of the founders of the Kerala-based independent film collective Kazhcha Chalachitra Vedi, and a prominent figure in the recent resurgence of Malayali indie cinema, which has its roots in late director John Abraham’s “people’s cinema” movement of the 1980s. He had earlier withdrawn his film from the Kerala Film Festival.

In a Facebook post on 21 September, he said, “This is a clarification. I have seen many reports stating that, withdrawal of Sexy Durga from International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) is because it is not included in the competition section. This is absolutely baseless. I have no insistence that the film will be given for screening only if it is selected in the competition section. I have withdrawn the film, in protest of the wilful insult from the side of the Kerala Chalachithra Academy and IFFK in putting the film which have already gained international reputation by winning multiple International awards (Including the Hivos Tiger Award in the #IFFR) in a much insignificant corner of the festival named Malayalam cinema today. This section is instituted to promote the contemporary Malayalam cinema which needs support. There are lot of good films, may be better films than Sexy Durga, which need such attention and support. As a film, which already got world attention, Sexy Durga doesn't need such a consolation from the Academy. If the Academy was sincere to screen the film in the IFFK, it could have included the film in any other category, as token of acknowledgment of recognitions the film already received. When I communicated the thought that I have to withdraw the film from the festival, if it is in the Malayalam Cinema Now section, a top official of the festival has said that, "Your wish. You'll get lots of publicity.



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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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