Literatures, Languages & Cultures

Meet our graduates: Saad Siddiqui

Exploring Bombay Cinema through the Edinburgh cityscape, MSc Intermediality graduate Saad Siddiqui tells us about producing a short film as his final masters programme project and screening the film at events in both India and Scotland.

Saad Siddiqui on Portobello Beach in Edinburgh
MSc Intermediality graduate (2023) Saad Siddiqui on Portobello Beach in Edinburgh

As part of the MSc in Intermediality: Literature, Film and the Arts in Dialogue, students complete a dissertation or a practice-based project and reflective essay. Before graduating in 2023, Saad Siddiqui spent five months working on a short film, using the city of Edinburgh to examine cinematic intermediality and the intricacies of Bombay cinema.

Saad has always wanted to research the nuances of Bombay cinema and the partition of India, and he tells us that the masters in Intermediality enabled him to turn his research interests into a short film.

“Usually, Hindi Cinema is referred to as ‘Bollywood’, which in a lot of ways is a culturally inappropriate term because it misidentifies and dismisses the other languages in which cinema is made in India. Instead, the terms ‘Bombay Cinema’ or ‘Hindi-Urdu Cinema’ can be synonymously used,” Saad explains.

“Bombay cinema is mostly used to refer to the films of the 1950s and 60s India, made in the city of Bombay (now Mumbai). During that era, India was a recovering nation from the partition of 1947. The films beautifully capture a post-partition and postcolonial essence in their being, especially through their songs.”

Borrowing music, songs, and tropes from Bombay cinema, Saad combined the mesmerising visuals of Edinburgh with his own poetry to create the film "Nazakat/Finesse". Nazakat, which is Urdu for ‘finesse’, is divided into three parts, each dealing with a specific theme and signifying a narrative convention.

From idea to presenting a finished project to an audience

After Saad finished Nazakat, he came across ‘Light, Camera, Inclusion’, an event about film-making and storytelling organised by the Keshav Suri Foundation based in New Delhi.

The organisation’s motto is to ‘bring forth the unheard voices of people from the LGBTQIA and other underrepresented and marginal communities to the fore’, which Saad believes played an essential part in the Keshav Suri Foundation recognising his work: “The submission process was very artist-friendly, and I had the honour of being selected for this event alongside two other filmmakers.”

Saad travelled to India in September 2023 for the screening. Talking about how it felt to put a part of himself out there through a personal project like Nazakat, and getting the chance to discuss it with others, Saad admits it was ‘truly the most surreal experience’ of his life.  

The idea of Nazakat was just an idea, and later it became what I intended it to be. I worked on it for more than 5 months, and then to have an entire room full of people applaud something that you built from scratch is unbelievably dreamlike. The audience in the room knew most of the songs which were imported to Nazakat – borrowed from Bombay cinema, of course – and the entire room was singing along all of them in one sync. I would never forget the gravity with which those echoes hit me. It was a very moving experience.

Saad SiddiquiMSc Intermediality, 2023

A celebration of intermediality

After the screening, Saad took part in a panel discussion where he represented the concept of intermediality to the engaged audience.

Saad credits his ‘Intermediality heroes’ for giving him the confidence to try new things, highlighting the support of the MSc Intermediality Programme Directors, his project supervisor and numerous other staff members within the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures. Their teachings are the resaon he "could gather the courage to experiment with filmmaking as a means to combine South Asian and Western sensibilities towards the academic scholarship of Film studies, Literature, and Postcoloniality.”

In November 2023, Saad also attended the first Night of Intermediality event in Edinburgh. Here, Nazakat was screened again at a showcase celebrating MSc Intermediality students’ projects and creative work, such as videos, music, photography, and film scripts.

Doing this masters programme has altered my worldview in an unimaginable capacity. There are a number of skills which I have learnt from this programme but it is mainly the dedication and creativity of the Intermediality faculty through which I could re-think the nuances of cinema as an artistic medium.

Saad SiddiquiMSc Intermediality, 2023
Saad Ahmad Siddiqui at a film screening in India
Saad at the Light, Camera, Inclusion film screening in New Delhi

Making memories and friends in Edinburgh

Thinking about his time in Scotland, Saad reflects on his personal journey back into academia after the Covid-19 pandemic: "The making of this film and the year I spent at Edinburgh doing this MSc in Intermediality will be a celebrated highlight of my life. I came to Edinburgh with a lot of aspirations and desire, most importantly to reacquaint myself with art, literature, and academia again."

But Edinburgh hasn't only been an important place for Saad academically: “After the pandemic, like most of us, I also had a terribly isolating experience. I was dealing with the personal loss of my father and the anxiety of moving away from my home country. The city of Edinburgh, the School of Literatures, Languages, and Cultures at the University of Edinburgh and the gorgeous friends I made in this place made everything worthwhile.”

“It filled my heart with everlasting joy and for that I will forever be grateful,” Saad finishes.  

After leaving Edinburgh, Saad has decided to continue his academic journey and is currently an MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies student at the University of Cambridge.

His research focuses on Postcolonial Studies, Indian Anglophone Studies, Partition Literatures, Translation and Transcreation. Saad is also a writer and poet, and he recently started his own literary magazine, the Dehradun Review, which he hopes to use to platform for underrepresented and marginalised artists. Saad is also currently working on a fiction novel, which will dissect the idea of home through psychological, sociological and political perspectives.

Are you interested in studying Intermediality?

As the first UNESCO World City of Literature, home of the Edinburgh International Festival and a major cultural hub, Edinburgh is the ideal place for the study of intermediality. Our taught masters programme draws on world-class teaching and research expertise across media, from literature to film, music, painting, photography and visual culture more widely.

The programme will familiarise you with intermedial theory and equip you with the critical tools and historical background for understanding and analysing a wide range of intermedial phenomena across different periods and cultures.

Find out more about studying with us