December 5, 2002 
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Saeed Jaffrey
Srinivas Krishna's Masala is best South Asian film
Voters root for the 1991 groundbreaking film at a recent British Film Institute poll

Shyam Bhatia in London

Directed by Canadian filmmaker Srinivas Krishna, Masala (1991) has topped the British Film Institute's (BFI) web poll on South Asian Cinema. The open poll, hosted on the BFI website, had votes registered from across the globe.

Following the critics' poll of the film announced in October, the public was invited to vote for its own favourite South Asian film titles. Both polls were divided into five sections --- top tens for Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Bangladeshi cinema --- with a separate category for films with contemporary Asian themes or made by Western Asians. Masala topped the last category and secured the most votes.

The polls aim to generate discussion and provide a starting point for further research on these film histories and cultures, and were initiated as part of the BFI's eight-month ImagineAsia festival which drew to a close last week.

Masala, starring Saeed Jaffrey, Sakina Jaffrey and Zohra Segal, focuses on an Indian community in Canada and explores the experiences of an extended family --- from an aunt who converses with Lord Krishna through her television, to an uncle who offers refuge to suspected terrorists in his sari shop.

Commenting on Masala, Cary Sawhney, director of ImagineAsia, said, "It is great that Masala, one of the seminal Asian films from a Western perspective, has topped this poll. In 1991, this film was groundbreaking in combining everyday realities of urban youth in Canada with Bollywood-inspired escapist dream sequences."

Poll organiser and head of BFI publishing, Andrew Lockett said, "The enthusiasm of the public's response to the poll highlights the impact of British Asian filmmaking. The similarity between both the critics and public polls confirms the status of these great examples of South Asian cinema."


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