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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. 



3rd LIFFI: Picturesque mountains, interesting films, small crowds

3rd LIFFI: Picturesque mountains, interesting films, small crowds

Lonavla (also spelt Lonavala) is a hill-retreat about halfway from the two biggest cities in Maharashtra, Pune and Mumbai. It takes between two and three hours, depending upon traffic, to get there by road, and almost the same time by train. The latter option avoids the traffic, of course. The 3rd Lonavla International Film Festival of India (LIFFI) is being held in Lonavla, and concludes today, on its third and last day.

It is a mini festival in a picturesque mini-town, which is famous for its candy and as a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the metros. Industrialist Madhav Todi is the Director of the Festival and its Curator is actor, producer, writer and now lecturer, Viveck Vaswani. LIFFI has as its Chief Patron Sushil Kumar Agarwal, Managing Director of Ultra Media and Entertainment Pvt. Ltd., part of the Ultra Group, which is a diversified company. Todi’s Triose Plaza, a multiplex and amusement park unit, with several eateries and games, is the sponsor and the locale of the annual event. Films are being screened at its three auditoria and Master Classes are held at the Hall event area, where the inaugural ceremony was conducted.

A major attraction of the festival is the Bimal Roy package, put together by his daughter, Rinki Roy Bhattacharya, who also conducted a Master Class on her father, the legendary director, producer and, in his initial years, a cinematographer. As added attraction to this package, there was a session on the music in Bimal Roy’s films, conducted by Tushar Bhatia, a music composer, musician and music scholar. He traced the journey of the master from his early days in the mid-30s to his later relocation to Bombay, where he set-up his banner, Bimal Roy Productions. Under his own banner, his first film was Do Bigha Zamin, the director being inspired by Bicycle Thieves, of Italian neo-realistic auteur, Vittorio De Sica. Roy’s all time money-spinner was Madhumati. Some outstanding music from his films was played, each with a lucid introduction by Bhatia.

Among many other classics, Roy made Sujata and Bandini showcasing the talent of Nutan. The latter was an early success for newcomer Dharmendra. Madhumati’s star hero Dilip Kumar had earlier worked with Roy in Devdas, in its 1955 version. Roy was the cinematographer of the Bengali and Hindi dual versions made in Calcutta in the 30s. Parineeta (1953) was one of the rare outside films he directed in Bombay, which was produced by his friend Ashok Kumar, who also starred in Bandini. Noticeably, both Parineeta and Devdas have been remade in this century.

In the day-and-a-half that I spent there, I managed to see the following films: Kachcha Limbu, Rough Book, Nude (first-half) and Evening Shadows, all of them interesting films. Besides, I also attended the Tushar Bhatia (he was a my student in the communication workshop course many years ago) session. Shows of some films, like Joggers Park, directed by my film-making course batch-mate Anant Balani, and Cycle Kick, were cancelled. Some screenings were delayed due to the over-shooting of the Master Classes and vice versa. Attendance in some shows was paltry, while others were jam-packed, since the auditoria were of very low capacity, under 100 seats each The full houses were also due to the participation of students of media schools and some local groups.

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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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