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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. 



MIFF 2020, Open Forum, Day 1: Single window clearance needed

MIFF 2020, Open Forum, Day 1: Single window clearance needed

On the first day of the Open Forum, conducted by the Indian Documentary Producers’ Association (IDPA), at MIFF 2020, the topic was ‘Problems Faced by Film-makers While Shooting in India: What are the solutions?’

IDPA was represented by President Usha Deshpande, Vice-President Aditya Seth (moderator), Suresh Sharma (Executive Committee Member and panelist) and Sanskar Desai (Secretary). Others on the panel were US-based film-maker Vibha Bakshi (Son Rise and Daughters of Mother India), Taranjiet Singh Namdhari (documentary and feature film-maker) and Sandesh Salunkhe, from the Maharashtra Film Cell.

Director General of Films Division (FD), and Director of MIFF, Smt. Smita Vats-Sharma made a brief appearance, from her hectic schedule. She mentioned that before assuming charge of her present position, she was the spokesperson of the Ministry of Railways, and there, a move had been initiated to provide single window clearance for shooting on properties owned by the railways. She hoped that a similar move will be in place for shooting films in all places where permission was required.

Vibha Bakshi faced death threats while shooting her film Son Rise in Haryana, as the subject dealt with rights of women versus the diktats of the khap panchayats (informal village council). No police protection was provided, and there were times when she and her unit had to run, to escape violence and life-threatening situations. Taranjiet had made a feature film on the plight of pilots captured by Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, The Great Indian Escape-2012, for which he had a tough time convincing the Air Force authorities to help him re-create the period and characters, because they did not understand the concept of a docu-drama. Some of them wanted Hindi film superhero Akshay Kumar to portray them, and include sequences with their girl-friends!

Suresh Sharma and Aditya Seth lamented that for shooting in public places, particularly in heritage sites, as many as five permissions were required, and steep fees were charged. Sharma shared the harrowing tale of being shunted from pillar to post while seeking permission to shoot his documentary on Mughal King Bahadurshah Zafar, the last Emperor of India. (Sharma’s documentary on legendary music composer Khaiyyaam was being screened at MIFF 2020). Also, he was told that he could not film the late actor Shammi Kapoor talking to the camera in a moving car on the Mumbai-Pune highway. Salunkhe revealed that single window clearance had been put in place for shooting in and around Mumbai, and soon the facility would be extended to the whole of Maharashtra.

At present, rates for shooting permissions are irrespective of the type or genre of film, and needed only seven working days to process. If not processed within seven working days, the permission was deemed to have been obtained. IDPA members and the audience present suggested that affordable rates should be levied on documentary film makers, and that blanket permission, on a national level, should be considered, for members of IDPA or makers who were working on films for FD. Salunkhe assured the gathering that he would convey this request to the relevant authorities.

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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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