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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 52, 027: Identity of world’s largest democracy addressed in Bharat, Prakriti ka Balak

IFFI 52, 027: Identity of world’s largest democracy addressed in Bharat, Prakriti ka Balak

What is the essence of Bharat, our country? What is the meaning underlying this idea? How did it come into existence? What is its culture, traditions and geography? Bharat, Prakriti Ka Balak (India, Child of Nature), a Hindi documentary film, directed jointly by Dr. Deepika Kothari and Shri Ramji Om, was screened in the Indian Panorama Non Feature Film section of the 52nd International Film Festival of India.

The film is the third episode of the ten-episode-long documentary series on Indian civilisation. Addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the festival, Dr. Deepika Kothari, the brain behind the documentary, said that the film addresses the essence of Bharat, our country. “Bharat is not just a piece of land that we have gained upon independence in 1947. We have tried to show all our cultural traditions, philosophical beliefs and ancient knowledge in our documentary series.”

The documentary relies on evidence from geography, history, ancient texts and notes from scholars, says Dr. Kothari. “There is a lot of this evidence, which is not usually incorporated in scholastic textbooks, people are unaware of this.”

Produced by Desh Apanayen Sahyog Foundation, Dr. Kothari informed that the documentary has covered everything, ranging from the festivals of our country to the culture of tribes belonging to various parts of India. “The film is woven into this cinematic piece of art with music, dance and of course, with knowledge. It’s very educative and scholarly no doubt, but it will also tell the world the rich values that we have inherited.”

Fellow director Ramji Om shared with the audience the spring of inspiration which led the duo to make the film. “Through our documentary, we have tried to fill the vacuums left by our education system. We thought of making this documentary in 2005, because education is the most vital factor in the making of a nation. The treasure-trove of India’s cultural heritage is showcased in this documentary.”

The research part of any documentary is the toughest part, says Dr. Kothari. “For this documentary series, we travelled across the globe. We travelled to 194 archaeological sites in India and abroad; we have collected a lot of documents from across the world, we came across the best of relics, sculptures and manuscripts. A part of it is shown here. The rest are presented in the other episodes of the series. Unfortunately, most of them are not in India now. They are outside India - in museums and private collections, in other countries.”

Ramji Om, who also wrote the screenplay of the documentary, agreed that even documentaries need a strong plot. “Commercial films have many elements to attract the audience but it is not easy to attract audiences to documentaries. The effort behind making of a documentary depends mainly on research material. If our research is detailed and thorough, we will be able to tell a good story through documentaries.”

A scientist by training, Dr. Kothari left her past career to explore the culture of India and the meanings behind them. She shared with film delegates what drove her to make the shift. “We have to be responsible custodians of the legacy we have inherited. Though a physicist, I found that the Indian knowledge system and the understanding of Indian philosophy is even more sensible than modern science. I wanted to explore that.”

Dr. Kothari further explained, “Most of us goes to these archaeological sites in our country, especially to the temples and the museums, as tourists. We don’t understand the meaning behind the sculptures, the texts or the architecture. Our documentary delves deep into the traditions of Bharat and shows it to the world.”

The documentary is divided into 20 episodes of 25 minutes each and uploaded on YouTube for the public to see, informed Dr. Kothari. “We are not using it for commercial gains but for the greater good of public. We are also creating small clips on various questions from students; we will release this soon.”

Responding to a question on OTT platforms, Ramji Om asked why we are giving away control to foreign platforms by allowing them to stream our cinema. “Cinema controls the psychology of the masses. Films are not only for submission to film festivals. To make our cinema global, what we need is not money but willpower. We should control our own narrative and have our own OTT platforms which give chance to our regional film-makers.”


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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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