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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. 



Two-day Bollywood International Film Festival kicks off on the 17th in Mumbai

Two-day Bollywood International Film Festival kicks off on the 17th in Mumbai

“A film festival needs to be ethical and impartial, and that is exactly what Bollywood International Film Festival strives to be,” said Bollywood International Film Festival (BIFF) founder-chairperson Pratibha Sharma, and actor-director Yashpal Sharma at the media meet of the film festival, held at the Harmony Hall of Carnival Cinema, Oshiwara, Mumbai

Of the 200 plus entries received by the festival, the best were chosen by an eminent team of international filmmakers. The select films from the chosen ones will be on view for audiences at Carnival Cinemas Mumbai, during December 17-18.

The festival will also showcase a special screening of Yashpal Sharma’s Dada Lakhmi, the Haryanvi film that has won more than 68 awards globally, and has been running to packed houses for over six weeks in Haryana state.

While the eminent jury comprises of Ashok Rane, Amit Rai, Sandeep Sharma, French actress Marine Borgo (spelt Bobo in the press release) and Tauqeer Ahmed from Bangladesh, the BIFF team members Monika Davar, Minaxi Singh, Dalbir Singh, Sameer Chowdhary, Tabassum Jahan, Alpana Suhasini, Sunil Bainiwal, Vishal Sharma and Tapan Patani were present, along with Dr Anusha Srinivasan Iyer, who is handling the Public Relations

“Our aim is to introduce people to quality cinema, whether it be feature film, short film, mobile film or a documentary.” Films from the US, Afghanistan, Iran and many European countries will be a part of this festival that also boasts of masterclasses for industry aspirants.

The programme circulated at the presscon shows that proceedings will begin on both days with Ganesh Vandana (worship of the God Ganesha). Only four long films are scheduled, one of which is Dada Lakhmi (Chand). This film is written and directed by Yashpal Sharma, having him in the title role of a poet singer of Haryana. Sharma kept on denying that he has a role in the festival, although he conducted most of the press conference. There were two big posters of Dada Lakhmi forming the backdrop of the seating arrangement. The film, though certified in 2022, was shown at the Rajasthan film festival around two years ago, where Yashpal presented it himself. It was not clear whether Dada Lakhmi is in the competition or not.

Two names of jury members were revealed on the occasion: Tauqeer Ahmed and Marianne Borgo. Tauqeer is a Bangladeshi director in whose film Fagun Haway Yashpal had acted, he announced. I have seen the film, and it is good. He called Tauqeer the Shyam Benegal of Bangladesh. Marianne Borgo (see picture) is a French actress who works mainly in television and has often played queens. She is on the advisory board of the Rajasthan International Film Festival as well as on the Jury of the Khajuraho International Film festival. Yashpal and Marianne probably met at Rajasthan and Khajuraho, two years ago. They did mingle in Rajasthan. Names of three other jurors were announced in a press release later. This is the third Bollywood International Film Festival. The first two were held online, during Covid. The number of entries received has shown a downward trend, from 260 to under 200 this year.

It is de rigueur at such events that snacks and beverages be served. On some occasions, where the event falls around lunch-time, even lunch is served. This press conference was scheduled for 3.45 p.m. and rescheduled for 4 p.m. The location is not convenient to reach and considerable travel was involved for many of us scribes. Till 5 pm, not even water was served. Then, the conference began and were shown a signature film of the festival, in two versions, followed by a trailer of Dada Lakhmi. Yashpal Sharma then took over the mike and pointed out that the delay in commencing the proceedings was because some journalists came very late, although he himself had arrived on time (he had). The addresses and Q&A went on for about 35 minutes, at the end of which Yashpal said, in his rich baritone voice, “Anybody else dares to ask a question?” Nobody did.

Time for snacks. Packed in a box, the samosa and sandwich seemed to have been prepared at 5.35 am, and not 5.35 pm. They were awful. I took a couple of bites and left the box alone. What I, and some 25 others, desperately needed was a cup of tea. After tea, I could leave immediately and reach my next venue well in time. No luxury, tea and coffee are available in abundance at all such meets. There was no tea around. From 5.35 till 6.15, a period of 40 minutes, we were given assurances that tea is “on its way”. At 6.15, I had to leave, to attend the preview of Ajay Wardhan, scheduled at 6.30, and it was too late to travel by bus, but reachable by auto-rickshaw in 15 minutes. So I left, and spent a decent amount on the auto fare. When I left, the crowd had thinned to just 10-12 persons, the others having left before me. A cup of tea costs Rs. 10, and 25 cups would cost Rs. 250. This is equivalent to USD3. And yet, no tea was served. Not till I left. One can carry snacks and biscuits, if the hosts decide not to offer edible stuff, but one cannot carry tea or coffee, both of which are national addictions.

Some questions arise.

Is a two-day affair enough to qualify as a film festival? The minimum is usually five days.

Should a film made by the promoter of the festival be showcased at such a festival?

Should its trailer be shown at the festival’s official press conference?

Should the festival be held when the Third Eye Asian Film Festival is running concurrently?

Was the media treated fairly?

I do not expect any answers, except the wrath of the event organisers.

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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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