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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. 



Director Ashutosh Gowariker, actor Vikram Gokhale flag-off 8th Theatre Olympics in Mumbai

Director Ashutosh Gowariker, actor Vikram Gokhale flag-off 8th Theatre Olympics in Mumbai

Taking forward its long association with the world of drama, the city inaugurated the 8th Theatre Olympics, a fortnight-long international theatre festival, organised by the National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi, on 24th March. Eminent film and theatre actor Vikram Gokhale, and reputed film-maker Ashutosh Gowarikar inaugurated the festival, at a function held at the prestigious Nehru Centre, that was presided over by Director, National School of Drama, stage director Prof. Waman Kendre. 

“I am first a theatre personality and student, then a cinema actor and director. I learnt a lot from theatre, and now this great art helps in utilising a limited space of stage in conveying unlimited messages and emotions. In my early years, I have acted in a lot of drama productions, and my cinema is a virtual capturing of theatrical scenes,” said Ashutosh Gowariker. About his own theatre memories, he revealed that he used to act in four languages during in college days, “Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and English.” Ashutosh is the director or such notable films as Lagaan, Swades and Jodha Akbar. He returned to acting in 2016, with the critically acclaimed Ventilator (Marathi).

Ashutosh Gowariker, Vikram Gokhale and Waman Kendre

Gokhale, who is a veteran of films and theatre, advised actors to do at least one play a year, to hone their skills. He regretted that he lost his “stage voice” some three years ago, probably due to age catching-up, and felt that he would not be able to do justice to live performances anymore, so he has taken retirement from the stage some 2-3 years ago. But if Vaman Kendre were to do a play that suited him, “I would come out of retirement.” In films, “You get to have only one take okay, and that is the final one. Theatre allows you and your role to grow with every show,” he asserted. Vikram Gokhale is remembered for his work in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Natsamrat, Bhool Bhulaiyaa, Tum Bin...: Love Will Find a Way, Bang Bang, and the latest release, Hichki.

The inaugural play in Mumbai was a Hindi production ‘Mohe Piya’, by Prof. Waman Kendre, an adaptation of Mahakavi Bhasa’s Sanskrit classic, ‘Madhyama Vyayoga’, that is based on an episode of Mahabharata, the Hindu mythological epic. It presents the story of hunter Ghatotkachha, who wants to capture a man for his mother to eat. Although a carnivore, his mother, Hidimba, is portrayed as an independent woman, with a thinking mind and an emotional soul.

The city is one of the seventeen venues of the 8th Theatre Olympics, world’s largest theatre festival, being held in India for the first time. Sixteen other cities are either conducting or have recently concluded their leg of the 8th Theatre Olympics, organised in the film capital of India by NSD, in collaboration with the Directorate of Cultural Affairs, Maharashtra. NSD operates under the Central Government's Ministry of Culture.

Theatre lovers in Mumbai are watching a series of 28 performances, from 24th March to 7th April 2018, presenting an eclectic mix of national and international theatre productions. Among national productions are seven specially invited plays from renowned theatre personalities, such as ‘Sonata’ (Sohag Sen.), ‘Rashmirathi’ (Ravishankar Khare), ‘Phera’ (Soumitra Chatterjee), ‘Avudai’ (Abilash Pillai), ‘Rakt-Abhishek’ (D. P. Sinha), ‘Court Martial’ (Sharad Sharma), and ‘DakGhar’ (Kanhaialal).

In addition, six international productions--‘Shri 420’ (Saba Zaidi and Atul Tiwari, Australia), ‘Almost Alive’ (Sabine Molenaar, Belgium), ‘Phantom’ (Theodor Hoidekr, The Czech Republic), ‘The Restaurant Of Many Orders’ (Hiroshi Koike, Japan), ‘Balladyna’ (Katarzyna Deszcz, Poland), and ‘The Brink! Or A Ritual of Bad Sounds’ (Thom Pasculli, USA), will also delight the theatre-goers in the city.

Other plays on show in Mumbai are ‘Mai Hoon Na…(In Time & Space)’ (Bharti Sharma), ‘Missile Man’ (Raja Anand), ‘Code Mantra’ (Rajesh Joshi), ‘Vidyottama’ (Mohan Maharishi), ‘Taj Mahal Ka Tender’ (Chittaranjan Tripathi), ‘Khamoshi Sili Sili’ (Suresh Sharma), ‘Ghashiram Kotwal’ (Rajinder Nath), ‘Kamala Kunwarir Sadhu’ (Simanta Phukan), ‘Lost Paradise’ (Aru Swati Vyas), ‘Banjara’ (Sajida), ‘Paritran’ (Rajoo Barot), and ‘Nat-Samrat’ (Jayant Deshmukh).

Apart from the plays, Mumbai hosted an international seminar on dwindling popularity of theatre, which was attended by renowned playwrights and popular theatre actors, from India and abroad. Mumbai will also witness a host of allied activities, such as Master Classes, Living Legend, and Interface, featuring well-known personalities, such as Nitish Bhardwaj (TV’s Lord Krishna, in the serial, Mahabharata), Darshan Jariwala (popular film and stage actor),  Mahesh Dattani (theatre director) and Harish Bhimani (leading voice and actor).

The festival concludes on 8th April.


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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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