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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. 



Haemolymph-The Invisible Blood, Review: Mumbai Police’s worst kept secret

Haemolymph-The Invisible Blood, Review: Mumbai Police’s worst kept secret

Some real-life stories have been turned into good films, some have not. Haemolymph belongs to the latter category. Had we not seen 500+ Hindustani films about police excesses and third degree torture, Haemolymph (Oxford definition: a fluid equivalent to blood in most invertebrates, occupying the haemocoel) would have had some novelty. As it transpires, the real-life story of a man falsely accused of the 2006 Mumbai blasts, held in custody for about nine years, subjected to various forms of abuse and torture, only to be finally exonerated. It comes across as an amateurish attempt at making a tear-jerker, and breaking the myth that all Muslims are terrorists by nature and implicating them in terrorist acts is a cake-walk. It is made with laudable intentions, but has low cinematic values. There is also the issue of severe censorship, which has ‘cleansed’ the film, albeit leaving many abuses and naked beatings intact, making sure that images are either blurred or shown in long shot. Excision of a lot of footage has left continuity jerks, further affecting the narrative.

This is the true story of Wahid DeenMohammed Shaikh, who was one of the accused of the 7/11 serial bomb blasts in the Mumbai lifeline, the local train services of the city, that operate between the south and north of Mumbai. A Master of Arts and a Bachelor of Education, Wahid was a teacher at the Anjuman-e-Islam school in central Mumbai. He was accused of being a member of the banned organisation, Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), and of hosting Pakistani nationals, in his extremely tiny home. The police pick him up from his school, and thus begins his ordeal. Wahid is tortured in an attempt to extract a confession, or, to force him to take the blame. He is shifted from Police lock-ups in one Station to another, and even lodged in various jails. A young advocate, Shahid Azmi, takes up the cases of Wahid and the other accused, only to be shot dead by unknown assailants. His story was featured in the film Shahid, made some years ago. But the die-hard spirit of Wahid sees him through the nine years it takes for him to be pronounced not guilty.

One day, writer-director Sudarshan Gamare read the horrific experience of Wahid Sheikh, during the police custody, and in prison, and thought it could be the subject of a film. In the beginning, there was a lot of scepticism about the project, but with rigorous research, and after conducting several interviews, Gamare was convinced and motivated to make the film. The result, though, is amateurish and bookish, with a weak screenplay. Dialogue is full of expletives, when it comes to the police, but the Wahid family speaks very natural dialogue. Urdu-speaking Muslims do not use words like ‘sapna’ (dream) or ‘man’ (heart), but Gamare makes them say these words more than once.

Haemolymph is produced by Tikatbari and AB Films entertainment, in association with Adiman Films, and ND9 Studio as a Co-producer. Saurabh More is the Executive producer. The film stars Riyaz Anwar as Wahid, and he has done a very good job. Also in the cast are Ruchira Jadhav as Sajida Shaikh, Rohit Kokate as Javed Shaikh, Neelam Kulkarni as Wahid’s mother, Datta Jadhav as Wahid’s father and Sayli Bandkar Javed’s wife. It must be noted and appreciated that almost all the Muslim roles have been essayed by Maharahstrian non-Muslims.

The film's soundtrack has is composed by Mujtaba Aziz Nazan (son of famous Qawwal, late Aziz Nazan), and lyrics are written by Nasir Faraaz and Mumtaz Aziz Nazan (wife of Aziz Nazan). There is only one real song, the long Khwaja qawwali, punctuated by dialogue. Director of Photography is Rohan Mapuskar and Sound Design is by Avinash Sonawane.

With a title like Haemolymph, and content that is an exposé of the worst kept secret about the disdain and contempt with which most police officers regard ‘suspects’ of the Muslim community, or, indeed, of the community as a whole, the film is not likely to attract audiences.

Rating: * ½



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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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