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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, 39: Street artiste Shantabai, at 85, performs high-risk acts

IFFI 51, 16-24 January, 39: Street artiste Shantabai, at 85, performs high-risk acts

“Our film Shantabai explores the journey of street artiste Shantabai Pawar, who continues to perform even at 85 years of age, and thus helps keep the legacy of Dombari community, in Maharashtra, alive. It is a documentary film on a dying art form, from which the lead actor Shantabai makes a living in her real life as well”. Director Pratik Gupta said this, while addressing a press conference in Goa, at the 51st International Film Festival of India (IFFI). The eponymous film, produced by the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, was screened in the Indian Panorama Non-Feature Film section of IFFI 51.

The Dombari community is known for its street circus acts, such as juggling acts on streets, like walking on ropes, and risky somersaults. The Dombaris are distributed across India. They are referred to as Bhorpi in Konkan, Gopals in districts like Satara and Sangli, and Dombari in western Maharashtra.

Director Gupta threw light on the real-life struggles of Shantabai, from whose own perspective the story is told: “To take care of her family, Shantabai performs juggling acts on the streets, and does rope-walking as well, activities which are sometimes dangerous and risky.”

Gupta wanted to bring out the innocence and boldness of the Dombari community. “Though they live on streets and are nomadic, they are innocent and bold. I had an amazing team. At first, no one was confident, but I was determined to make an emphasis on the innocence and boldness of this community.”

The Director added that the crew took special care to ensure that the scenes are captured naturally. “While shooting the movie, we took efforts to make the Dombari community comfortable. I had to spend time to remove their camera shyness. Actors often got nervous in front of the camera; hence, we had to keep the camera outside and zoom in. But on the whole, I enjoyed the process. And we made all the effort to capture scenes naturally.”


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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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