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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. 



MIFF 2020: A lost homeland land and a new home

MIFF 2020: A lost homeland land and a new home

Eight years and eighty lakhs is what it took USA-based music-video maker Sapna Bhavnani to make Sindhustan, 64-minute a labour of love, about the largest migration in history, that of Hindu Sindhis from Sind, now in Pakistan, to present day India. By contrast, Atanu Mukherjee’s 26-minute tale of a migrant single woman from Jabalpur who wants to settle in Mumbai, and her encounters with a transgender person, titled Wig, took just three days to film. Sindhustan is an entry in the international completion section at MIFF, while Wig is in national competition. Both film-makers addressed the press, Sapna after her screening, and Atanu before.

“Wig is my fourth short, and like all shorts, it is passion-driven,” began Atanu. “It is based on observations and has been made with the support of Humara Movie’s InTube channel. We cast a real transgender person, who was found with the help of my casting director and the LGBT organisation called Kashish. I find conceiving a film the most difficult part, the rest all falls in place.” He set the story in Mumbai because this is where he made the observations, but the story could take place in any big city, said Mukherjee, replying to a question.

Sapna confessed that she knew nothing about her family history when she was young, because youngsters are not interested in listening to their parents or grand-parents at that age, when it’s the time to play. “And then one day, I had that moment when I wanted to know who I was, and where I was from. It hit me like a slap, because there was nothing in the history books about Sindhis and their homeland. Later, on a visit to Mumbai, my grand-mother noticed that I covered myself fully, in front of her, concealing the tattoos on my arms. She reminded me that it is all right to have tattoos, because, from ancient times, tattoos and body-piercings denoted where we came from, since there were no borders in that age. That is when I decided to tattoo my legs too, using the dying Ajrak and Madhubani art forms, and make a film about the community, its roots in Sind, and their uprooting, post partition (14-15 August, 1947).”

Since the film was mainly about Sind, she applied for a visa to go to Pakistan, where it now lies. It was rejected, thrice, possibly because she had no immediate family left in Sind. But then she met someone called Saif in Nepal, and told him about her dilemma. He offered to help, and whatever footage there is of Sind is courtesy Saif. The film has footage from Hajampara (Barberville), Shikarpur (Hunt-town), where her father lived as a child.

A music video veteran, Sapna has dated Arijit Datta, a singer, on whose version of ‘Damaadam mast qalandar’ the film ends. Dwelling on her tattoos, which are a recurring motif in the film, she informed the press that she spent some seven days and 75 hours in hospital, enduring indescribable pain, getting tattooed by Yogesh Waghmare! Summing up she said, “I have become some sort of a flag-bearer for Sindhis, in the entire community, but till a few years ago, I did not even know that there exist Muslim Sindhis.”

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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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