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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, 25: PCs of Kripal Kalita, Blessy Ipe Thomas

IFFI 51, 16-24 January, 25: PCs of Kripal Kalita, Blessy Ipe Thomas

Kripal Kalita’s Assamese language film, ‘The Bridge’, throws light on the devastations and hardships that floods bring to Assam villages every year. “There is no solution in sight for this problem. I, being a farmer’s son, hailing from rural Assam, have faced this,” said Kalita, while addressing a press conference, at the 51st International Film Festival of India (IFFI), held in Goa, on the IFFI 51 Indian Panorama Feature Film. National Award-winning film director and script-writer Blessy Ipe Thomas was also present at the media briefing, to speak about his 2019 documentary ‘100 Years of Chrysostom – A Biographical Film’, which is being showcased in the Indian Panorama Non-Feature Film Section of IFFI 51.

Every year, the mighty Brahmaputra and its tributaries flood many villages and ruin cultivation. Kalita said that the film’s protagonist, Jonaki, goes through an unusual struggle caused by floods. Her plight gets aggravated by the absence of a bridge over the river. But, in the end, she becomes empowered, signifying “life must go on”.

Kalita, an independent film-maker, coming from a theatre background, have taken mostly newcomers as crew and cast for the film. “Shiva Rani Kalita, who plays the role of ‘Jonaki’, was chosen after screen-tests done on 300 college-goers and theatre artistes. The film, made with limited resources, was shot in a real flood situation in Upper Assam. For a particular shot, the crew had to remain submerged in flood-water for seven hours. Even real scenes of people struggling in the flood waters have been used in the film.”

Speaking about the challenges he has been facing in film distribution, Kalita said: “Many theatres are remaining closed because of the lockdown due to COVID-19.”

In reply to a media query, he expressed the desire to make a big-budget film on Ahom (Assam ese) King Chaolung Sukaphaa, who came from Thailand, in the 13th century, and set up an Assamese kingdom, especially given that the king too had to face the problem of floods caused by Brahmaputra and its tributaries.

Answering a question from this writer about the problems confronting his state, he said, migration of local people elsewhere in search of better employment is thwarting economic development in Assam.

Blessy Ipe Thomas’s 2019 documentary ‘100 Years of Chrysostom – A Biographical Film’ captures the thoughts and emotions of 103-year-old Bishop Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan. He is the longest serving bishop of a Christian church in Asia, and one among the longest in the history of Christianity. He became the Mar Thoma Valiya Metropolitan in 2007, and was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2018. His life is an epic chronicle of India’s political and social history of the last century, starting from the final years of the First World War. “I am too much inspired by his thoughts”, states the Director and adds, “This documentary aims to take forward his vision for the coming generations”.

The full version of Thomas’ documentary is 48 hours and 10 minutes, and holds the Guinness Record, in the year 2019, for the ‘Longest Film Documentary’. The film was shot over a span of five years.


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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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