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Singapore South Asian International Film Festival closes
Posted:Sep 13, 2017
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Singapore South Asian International Film Festival (Sg.Saiff) was a ten day extravaganza of sublime cinema from across the South Asian region packed with 35 films from across South Asia, multiple panel discussions, master classes, red carpet opening and a grand closing ceremony has set the pulse of the Singapore cinephiles racing. The festival concluded on the September 9 with much fanfare and celebration at the Star Vista Arena.
The highlight of the evening was the awards for the films shown at the festival. Below is the list of winners:
1.  Best Feature Film- Lathe Joshi ( Marathi Language), Dir: Mangesh Joshi
2.  Audience Prize for Best Film- Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai ( Hindi) Dir: Soumitra Ranade
3.  Best Short film - Son of Kali ( Bengali language ), Dir: Amit Agarwal
4.  Best Short Documentary - Is it too much to Ask? ( Tamil/English) Dir: Leena Manimekalai
In addition to the above, the evening saw some of the tallest figures from the field of cinema being honored. 
The list is as follows:
1.   Javed Akhtar ( Screenwriter, poet, lyricist)- South Asian Literary Icon
2.   Shabana Azmi ( Actress) - South Asian Women of the Year
3.   Abhay Deol ( Actor/ Producer/ Distributor)- South Asian Icon of the Year.
4.  K Rajagopal ( Director) - Fresh Voice of South Asian Cinema
5.  KP Sandhu ( Actor)- Emerging Talent of Singapore
Manoj Bajpayee, one of the finest actors of his generation was facilitated by H.E. Jawed Ashraf for his contribution to cinema and for his support in bringing a film festival of a great magnitude to Singapore.
South India superstar Dulquer Salmaan and famous actress Neha Sharma released a song from their upcoming bilingual film Solo, during the closing ceremony.
The evening of festivities was adorned with scintillating musical performances by wildly popular Indian singers, Mohit Chauhan and Neha Kakkar. The 1500 strong crowd was completely spellbound by the electrifying performances as well the presence of the galaxy of stars who spoke with great passion about cinema and Sg.SAIFF’s Herculean efforts in organizing the mammoth festival.
Abhayanand Singh, Festival Chairman and CEO of muvizz.com, in his opening address stressed the need that high-quality independent cinema from the Indian subcontinent is seen in  Singapore, which is a unique melting pot of diverse cultures and races and one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.
High Commissioner of India to Singapore H.E.Javed Ashraf and High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Singapore H.E. Mr. Md. Mustafizur Rahman lit the ceremonial lamp along the Sg.SAIFF executive team.
H.E. Javed Ashraf, in his opening remarks, expressed that he is thrilled with a mammoth initiative like Sg.SAIFF and expressed his confidence that the festival will become not just an important event in Singapore but a film festival of global repute.
In his award acceptance speech, Javed Akhtar spoke passionately about the need to expose our children to better quality art which must include the kind of cinema we want to see being made. Cinema being an expensive art form responds to market forces and a strong demand for more meaningful films will help channelize resources to filmmakers who are trying to develop their own idiom, away from the mainstream. His arrival on stage saw a thunderous standing ovation from the audience, awed by his formidable presence. 
Reinforcing the sentiments expressed by Javed Akhtar, the legendary actress  Shabana Azmi recalled her student days at the film institute where immersion in the films of masters of world cinema like Bergman, Kurosawa and Godard opened up her mind to new cinematic experiences and which helped her hone her talent to a great extent.
Festival mentor, Manoj Bajpayee fondly recalled his first meeting with Muvizz founder Abhayanand Singh and Co-Founder Piiyush Singh and how much he was struck by their passion for cinema and storytelling. This left no room to refuse their request to mentor the muvizz.comventure, of which Sg.SAIFF is a natural extension.
Often dubbed the “Thinking Women's Heartthrob”, actor Abhay Deol noted that even in a glamorous evening like the closing gala of Sg.SAIFF, the mind space is dominated by the presence of the highly cerebral filmmakers and artists. Abhay Deol has been a torchbearer for Indian cinema in recent years and has supported several small films by acquiring their distribution rights.
K. Rajagopal, director of The Yellow Bird and Singapore’s rising star of the filmmaking scene paid a heartfelt tribute to the Cinema of Adoor Gopalakrishnan who inspired him to become a filmmaker and lauded the festival for providing Singaporean cinephiles a very rare opportunity to meet the legendary Indian filmmaker in person, during the first half of the festival.
Another mesmerizing highlight of the closing weekend was a very exclusive rendezvous with the legends Javed Akhtar and Shabana Azmi, facilitated with great charm and wit by Sudhir Mishra, one of India’s noted filmmakers and an old friend of the two speakers. The Straits Room at The Fullerton Hotel was packed with film lovers who were treated to deep insights on the art and craft of filmmaking, writing and acting.
Key Highlights of Sg.SAIFF
World Premiere / 1st Sept/ The Cathay 2 Handy Road/ 5:00 pm
The World Premiere of Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai with the cast and crew Director Soumitra Ranade, and cast Manav Kaul and Saurabh Shukla was held on the first day of the festival, along with a bevy of celebrities at the Cathay Theatre, Handy Road.
The event was a glittering affair and attended by the who’s who of the cultural and cinematic space in Singapore along with dignitaries from the diplomatic corps of the participating countries. The opening film won a standing ovation from the audience and the director Soumitra Ranade patiently answered the many questions that the curious viewers had in mind.
Panel Discussion
Cinema in Flux: Filmed narratives of a subcontinent in transition.
Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Girish Kasaravalli, Siddiq Barmak, Prasanna Vithanage, Leena Yadav.
This highly stimulating discussion moderated by Sg.SAIFF Artistic Director and Filmmaker Amit Agarwal was a treat for a strong audience which had come to listen to four eminent filmmakers and their views on the current state of cinema in the present times. The event was help on the campus of The Puttnam School of Film, Lasalle College of the Arts on the 2nd September.
Special Screening
A very special screening of the documentary Images/Reflections on the work of master filmmaker Adoor Gopalakrishnan, directed by another master of Indian Cinema, Dr. Girish Kasaravalli was held on the 2nd of September at the UNDP Hall on the NUS campus.
The screening was followed by an intimate conversation with the two filmmakers chaired by Sg.SAIFF Artistic Director and Filmmaker Amit Agarwal who, interestingly, was also an Associate Director in the same film.
The event was attended by leading intellectuals and academics of Singapore as well as dedicated cineastes that were enthralled by the opportunity to interact with the Master filmmakers.
Film Screenings
The festival has already screened 10 feature films and 3 short films which have seen a very eager and enthusiastic audience come to the cinema and enjoy the best of South Asian films. Many of the screenings were followed by Question and Answer sessions with the filmmakers who have flown in to Singapore for the festival.
Important screenings include film Singaporean director K. Rajagopal’s much acclaimed film A Yellow Bird (2016), Bangladesh’s director, Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s Television (2013), Girish Kasravalli’s new documentary film, Images/Reflections (2015), Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Once Again/ Pinneyum (2016), Leena Yadav’s Parched (2015), and a much anticipated Bengali film Roktokorobi (2017),based on Rabindranath Tagore’s iconic dance drama of the same title.
Master Class and Workshops
An intensive workshop on the craft of acting is currently underway at the India Heritage Centre. The workshop is being conducted by Manoj Bajpayee, prolific and renowned Indian actor and esteemed theatre director and acting coach Ashok Purang. The workshop has received an overwhelming response from Singapore based actors keen on honing their craft.
Notable Celebrities in Attendance
Gala Opening Celebrities - Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Manoj Bajpayee, Abhay Deol, along with regional cinema stars like Mumtaz Sorcar, Dulquer Salmaan, Neha Sharma, and singers Mohit Chauhan and Neha Kakkar.
Other Celebrities - Adoor Gopalakirishnan, Girish Kasaravalli, Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Siddiq Barmak, Prasanna Vithanage, Mustafa Sarwar Farooqi and K Rajagopal, Saurabh Shukla, Manav Kaul
Meet and Greet with the Stars
The evening on the 8th of September was a rare opportunity to meet and greet leading celebrities from India like Manoj Bajpayee, Abhay Deol, along with regional cinema stars like Dulquer Salmaan, Neha Sharma, and singers Mohit Chauhan and Neha Kakkar. It was selfie time for star struck fans last they mingled in a room which was supercharged with electrifying presence of the stars.
Sharing his experience, Festival Chairman Abhayanand Singh says, ‘The festival is a landmark initiative showcasing for the first time in the city, South Asian cinema of such scale and quality. We, therefore, wish to make a big impact and become a significant cultural gateway in the years to come. Through the powerful medium of cinema, we hope to build closer ties between the global city of Singapore and the developing nations of South Asia.'
Artistic Director Amit Agarwal says, 'The challenge and drive in selecting films for Sg.SAIFF  was to create a program that is truthful to the exciting new voices and stories  which richly bring out the complexities of South Asia.'
Festival Director Ashok Purang says,'Sg.SAIFF aims to bring together an exclusive gathering of film makers, actors, film critics, and industry players to engage in vibrant discussions on the larger transformative role of cinema as a craft, representation, and industry in current times.'   
Singapore South Asian International Film Festival (Sg.SAIFF) is devoted to a greater appreciation of South Asian cinema and culture. The festival seeks to support emerging filmmakers, open a fertile space for dialogue and collaborations within the industry, and most significantly share with the audience of Singapore the diverse and complex experiences of South Asia through the intimate storytelling medium of cinema. 
Sg.SAIFF is founded by the core team of ‘Muvizz’, a Video on Demand (VOD) platform, with the impetus to effectively channel the expansion of South Asian cinema beyond the subcontinent and engage with a wider spectrum of audience. Singapore with its sizeable population of South Asian descent is a natural choice for this purpose.  Supported by the Singapore Indian High Commission (IHC), and Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), National University of Singapore, the festival is a landmark initiative to serve as a cultural gateway between the global city of Singapore and the developing nations of South Asia. 
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