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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. 



18th Third Eye Asian Film Festival, II

18th Third Eye Asian Film Festival, II

Six films were short-listed for the Best Asian Woman Film-maker Award at the 18th Third Eye Asian Film Festival (TEAFF): An Unfairy Tale/Maadathi, 2019, Tamil, 90 min, Director: Leena Manimekalai; Mystic Memoir, 2019, Bengali, 77 minutes, Director: Aparajita Ghosh; The Taste from Happy Island, 2019, China, 90 min, Director: Lai Xueyi; Stories@8/Kathaah@8, 2019, multilingual, Singapore, 90 mins, Director: Shilpa Krishnan Shukla; Dithee, 2019, Marathi, 86 mins, Director: Sumitra Bhave; Flows Forever/Bohoman, 2019, Bengali, 105 mins, Director: Anumita Dasgupta.

Of these six, I had occasion to see five and a small part of the sixth (Bohoman). I would rank Stories@8 as the best of the lot, with Dithee and The Taste of Happy Island each a lap behind. And guess what? The jury chose Shilpa Krishnan for her 8-part anthology Stories@8, made in eight Indian languages. A stickler for full rehearsals (each story was 10-13 minutes long), Shukla got her stories about high and low points, in the lives of mainly married women and of couples, near perfect. Eight stories were shot over a period of just nine days!

She was not present at the screening or to collect her award, but several actors, the co-producer-cinematographer-editor Mathew Jenif Joseph, and the music director, were present at the screening. Sadly, all had to leave for Thrissur that very night, to participate in the International Film Festival there, so her award was collected by a member of her team, the day after the screening, at the closing ceremony.

Though all the segments provided compelling viewing, there were some minor issues with cinematography, and the segment in Marathi language suffered by comparison, as it dragged a bit, with a relatively thinner premise, which was repeated several times in the dialogue. All said and done, this fourth feature of the Singapore-based senior marketing professional, Shilpa Krishnan Shukla, who writes all her films, is a notch higher than her last effort, Tashi. For someone who is a part-time film-maker, working with amateur teams, and with actors most of who are debuting on the big screen, the future looks bright.

Dithee was too dark and uni-dimensional while The Taste from Happy Island serves as an example of a Chinese Mills and Boon romance. Maadathi failed to engage me. Mystic Memoir was experimental but lacked coherence. It had some fine candid acting, in the monologue format, plus a spontaneous portrayal by the school-boy. With actors like Soumitra Chatterjee and Aparna Sen in its cast, Bohoman will need catching up. In the end, I am, obviously, glad that I managed to see Stories@8, and it bagged the coveted honour.


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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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