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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. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Dhaakad trailer launch: Kangana Ranaut takes on the enemy, this time in the 21st century

Dhaakad trailer launch: Kangana Ranaut takes on the enemy, this time in the 21st century

After the period piece about a freedom fighter, Manikarnika, Kangana Ranaut doing an action film should not come as any surprise. Dhaakad (a forceful person to contend with; formidable) brings you a few centuries forward and places the action in a modern-day setting, with hi-octane action of the James Bond ilk. The trailer was screened recently for the media at the high-profile PVR Phoenix Mall auditorium, though the venue initially chosen was the decadent Maratha Mandir single-screen theatre and was changed at the very last minute, made immortal by the decades long run of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. The change was made for unspecified reasons.

Present on the occasion were Kangana herself, in the title role, and named Agent Agni (the moniker means Fire), Arjun Rampal (who plays the villain, a human trafficker), Divya Dutta, director Razneesh ‘Razy’ Ghai and producers Deepak Mukut (Sohum Rockstar) and Sohel Maklai. Somebody came very late, probably Kangana, so the proceedings took off a good 75 minutes after the scheduled time. Kangana wore a costume that did leave a little bit to the imagination, while Divya was more soberly dressed. Arjun was in his smart casuals.

As expected, the trailer is all punches and kicks, stand-offs and run-ins, most of it in dark grey. After seeing such thrills and frills, the audience couldn’t help being but impressed. An interaction with the press followed. Eighteen of the nineteen questions (frankly, I did not count; but read on for a surprise) were directed at the actress who is known to make bold and brash statements, especially in the social media. When cited the examples of Hema Malini and Rekha as action heroines, Kangana was quick to acknowledge that they were trail-blazers. These actresses kicked-butt in films like Andha Kanoon, Seeta Aur Geeta, Khoon Bari Maang, Insaaf Ki Devi, and led the action, either on par or ahead of the male lead actor.

“They were amazing for their times. Whatever we are doing today, it is because of them. They have paved the way for us. Now our duty is to take it forward for the coming generation and take it up a notch higher, where we don't only get the privileges of leading ladies, but the privileges of a hero on the set. In so many ways, the world is ready for women to take the lead. I have had my share of low points, when I was not signing films, not going to awards functions, not featuring in fashion magazines. But I had a vision that this day (present times) is possible. However, I could not fulfil my ambitions alone. It needed teams like the makers of Dhaakad to help me realise this dream.”

Arjun Rampal, who came across as not a big talker, has also played the villain in Ra-One and Om Shanti Om. He is a good looker and wears his 49 going on 50 years rather lightly, was asked why was he, a handsome guy, doing all those horrible things to women? Was it because many women like bad guys? He responded, “You have given the answer yourself. I try to make bad look good.” On his striking look in the film, he confessed that he had nothing to do with it. “It was all the idea and execution of Razy and Sheetal, who did the costumes. I only hope I can pull it off, because it is quite bizarre.”

Divya Dutta opined that there are only two kinds of cinemas, good and bad. “Dhaakad gave me a gut feeling, and everything was correct. It is an amazing role, something very different from what I have done earlier. Superb co-actors…this is the first time I have worked with Kangana, and I thoroughly enjoyed working with her. With Arjun, I have done an ‘artsy’ film called Last Lear. You, know, with his good looks, he does both kinds of films. When I look back at the film, only a heart-felt smile comes to my face.

Debutant director Ghai had this to say,” This is my first film, and I feel really blessed. We have made a good film, at least I think so.” From a beginning in MTV, Razneesh Ghai co-founded VH1 in India, and has gone on to direct commercials for some of the biggest brands in the world. As an Army kid living in Wellington (not New Zealand), a little South Indian town in the Nilgiris, Razy discovered his love for film through screenings of World War II movies and Spaghetti Westerns.

He spent more than ten years as a director, though his feature first film was destined to be Dhaakad. He’s a voracious listener of Blues, Soul, Funk, Jazz and every other genre possibly ever invented in the world of music. His enthusiasm for music comes second only to his love for film, and right before his third love: single malt. My question, probably the nineteenth, was directed at Ghai. “It was mentioned that many of the action sequences were performed at some risk to the actors. In an age when VFX and SFX are the order of the day, did you not use these tools?” His reply was, “No. Almost all the action in Dhaakad is real, down-to-earth. Hardly any CGI has been used.” I am still wondering why. Who can tell the difference?

So taken up were a couple of lady journalists that they asked whether Dhaakad could turn into a long-lasting franchise. As if on cue, Deepak Mukut said, “We have already announced Dhaakad 2, with the same core team.” Everyone was full of praise for the financial backing and moral support provided by producer Sohel Maklai.

A bit of humour was infused by the female compère, an RJ, who slipped, fell and slightly sprained her leg, and made a dig at herself, that she was “…a fallen woman.”! She made another comment as she stepped down from the stage to continue asking the dignitaries questions, “We are persons rooted to the earth.” Good going, Ma-am, how I wish I knew your name!


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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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