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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. 



MFF 17, by Jio-MAMI, Festival Diary, II

MFF 17, by Jio-MAMI, Festival Diary, part I 

MFF 17, by Jio-MAMI, Festival Diary, II                                       Kiran Rao and Anupama Chandra

Come 28 October, and we learnt that the inauguration of Jio MAMI 17th Mumbai Film Festival would be held on 29th October in open-air at Mumbai’s most famous landmark, the Gateway of India. It was also learnt that the inaugural film, Aligarh, by Hansal Mehta, would be screened at the almost ancient Regal cinema, located half-a-kilometre way.  There was no information about the reception, which always follows the inaugural function.

I had collected my accreditation badge as a Press delegate from PVR Phoenix, one of the five festival venues. However, no invitation was received, to any of the events. Emails were sent to the PR agency, to find out if the press was invited. Turning Point had been retained as the PR agency and Saurabh Rathore, of Moe’s Art, who follows a stringent policy of inviting favourites only to his press preview screenings, was a Consultant with them.

A pdf file was received as the invitation, with no details about the screening or the reception. Turning Point did not reply when asked whether a print-out of this pdf file was to be carried to gain entry. No reply. Second question: When was the inaugural film going to be screened? Answer: On the next day, at 9 pm. This was a first. The inaugural film is always shown immediately after the inaugural function, never 24 hours later. Invitation? No invitations would be issued. One would have to book a seat online.

And what about the reception? There wasn’t one, said Turning Point. I could not believe this, and sent a couple of messages to Anupama Chopra, the Director of the festival. In reply, she admitted that there was a reception, but it was at a private house, so numbers were highly restricted, and almost no journalists were invited. The sub-text: Only photographers and TV crew were invited, the venue was the residence of Mr. Mukesh Ambani, who is the richest man in India and owns a mansion that has been compared to a playground; only favourites were invited. So, Anupama had reneged on her word that the policy of discrimination, keeping film journalists and critics away, a characteristic of the MAMI legacy of the last six years, would not be seen this year!

                                        Alia Bhatt                                                                Katrina Kaif

Being a native of Mumbai and having had my office located next to Regal for 30 years, the long trip from my residence in North Mumbai to the Gateway, near the southern tip, held no special charm, so I skipped the inauguration. Seats to the inaugural film were sold out almost as soon as booking opened, so that was lost too. And not being invited to the reception meant that one did not get a chance to mingle with the array of film personalities that graced the occasion. Such are the hazards of being a humble critic!                                                                                     

Here’s what I missed, courtesy PR reports:

*Special guest of the evening was Honourable Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis.

*Red carpet attendees were Mukesh & Nita Ambani, Anil Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, Abhishek Bachchan, Katrina Kaif, Alia Bhatt, Kangana Ranaut, Shabana Azmi, Aditya Roy Kapur, Zoya Akhtar, Dia Mirza, Aditi Rao Hyderi, Riteish & Genelia Deshmukh, Javed Akhtar,

A.R.Rahman, Diana Penty, Anupam & Kirron Kher, Anurag Kashyap, Vikamaditya Motwane, and Vidhu Vinod Chopra.

*Kalki Koechlin opened the event by introducing festival Co-Chair, Mrs. Nita Mukesh Ambani, board members and prestigious jury members.

*Mrs. Nita Mukesh Ambani, Festival Co-Chair, said, “Jio MAMI is our humble tribute to the wonderful city of Mumbai that has made Indian cinema famous across the world. Jio is proud to partner with MAMI. With Jio MAMI, we look forward to making Mumbai a global hub for not only Indian cinema but also world cinema.”

*Kiran Rao, Chair-person, added, “We are all really excited --the opening night is finally here, and it's all systems go! Everyone has worked extremely hard, and we have our fingers crossed that the festival goes without a hitch and is appreciated by all who attend.”

*Anupama Chopra, Festival Director, expressed," After a year of work, it’s overwhelming for us to have our opening at the iconic Gateway of India."

*Uday Shankar, CEO, STAR India said, “Mumbai Film Festival is one of the foremost destinations for showcasing the diversity and depth of the Indian film industry, and is a huge catalyst in promoting young and fresh talent. Both these objectives resonate very strongly with STAR.”


*The ‘International Excellence in Cinema’ award was presented to Israeli film-maker, Amos Gitai, for his cinematic contribution. Well-known for making political documentaries and feature films capturing the Middle-East and Jewish-Arab conflict.

*Writer duo, Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar, commonly known as Salim-Javed (Deewar, Yaadon Ki Baaraat, Sholay, Don), received the ‘Excellence in Cinema’ award for their outstanding work.

 *The ‘MAMI Tribute to Indian Cinema’ was awarded to producer-director, late Chetan Anand (Haqeeqat, Heer Ranjha), for the enduring impact he left on Indian Cinema. His Neecha Nagar, had won him the Best Film award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1946.

*Agnès (real name Arlette) Varda, 87 year-old  French director, screen-writer and actor, received the ‘MAMI Tribute to International Cinema’ award. 


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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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