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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. 



Sulemani Keeda, Review: NOde to Fellini, Tarkovsky and out-of-the box thinking

Sulemani Keeda, Review: NOde to Fellini, Tarkovsky and out-of-the box thinking

With the title meaning a ‘giant bug up the backside’, and the tag line saying a ‘bromantic comedy’, you more or less know what the genre of Sulemani Keeda will be. Writer-director Amit Masurkar moves away from the brooding tragedy of Kaagaz Ke Phool, the star-fixation of Guddi and the misadventures of an aspiring actor, as in Chala Murari Hero Banne, to concoct a modern-day ballad of two aspiring (slackers?) writers who go through the Mumbai film industry grind to discover success and ‘love’, respectively. Since the film is also touted as a ‘slacker comedy’, here is the dictionary meaning of the word slacker, which might not be widely understood in India: Slacker: One who shirks work or responsibility: "In terms of their outlook on the future, slackers regard tomorrow with a studied cynicism or . . . don't even conceive of one.”

One of the characters in the film, a producer’s 35 year-old son (Ganesh/Gonzo) who is to be launched as a hero in his father (Sweety Kapoor)’s next film, wants the writers to write a script which does not have a story, yet has one. He wants them to cast him as a college student, include full frontal nudity in the film and a weave in a quadrangle, as opposed to the usual love ‘triangle’ seen in Hindi films. Of the duo, Dulal, walks out of the project, hoping to find love with his third muse, Ruma, while the other, Mainak bows to the whims of the hard-nosed tightwad father and gets down to writing a formulaic film. Along the way, there is tons of swearing (liberal Indian censors), standard loser situations and constant references to classic directors like Tarkovsky and Fellini. Dulal remains dead-pan and serious while chasing his woman while Mainak is out for sexual adventures at the drop of a hat, one with a girl called ‘Oona from Poona’. So, will Mainak turn out a blockbuster and will Dulal win over his love interest?

Most situations in the film seem possible, but also improbable. Sulemani Keeda moves from contrived laughs to genuine chuckles with amazing ease. Unfortunately the whole track between Dulal and Ruma, though interesting in terms of execution, is at variance with the rest of the film. That apart, you are forced to keep guessing whether the maker is empathising with the characters or ridiculing them. Is it a black comedy or an existential treatise?

At 89 minutes, the brevity works to the advantage of the film. It was shot largely in Amit’s office in suburban Versova, and cut down from a mere 17 hours of rushes to 1.5 by the editor, Khushboo Agarwal, who felt “Every exposed frame counted. The scenes were shot mostly in longer takes and had a limited number of magnifications.” Cinematography by Surjodeep Ghosh is partly hampered by lighting issues and frequent filtered refraction colours, which might be attributable to budget constraints.

When Amit Masurkar wrote to Roger Avary, co-writer of Pulp Fiction, expressing his interest in film-making, Avary wrote back telling Amit to quit college and make films if he had the passion. So, he quit engineering college and headed for tinsel-town. A staff writer on the TV series The Great Indian Comedy Show, he directed the ‘making of’ documentary of Dibakar Banerjee’s Love, Sex aur Dhokha (LSD), and then co-wrote the screenplay of Murder 3, with Mahesh Bhatt. Amit does have an eye for characterisation and most of the cast is well chosen. Each one is given either a mannerism or a distinct style of diction, though the self-conscious half chuckle that Ruma lets out after every piece she speaks gets irritating. Given the ambience, the attempt to use back-ground music and sympathetic premises to draw sympathy for Dulal stick out as patches.

It is difficult to believe that the lead pair, Naveen Kasturia and Mayank Tiwari, are true life struggling writers, friends of Amit, and not actors. Their parts will appeal to multiplex intelligentsia, while their (profanity studded) language and predicaments will jell with masses.  Aditi Vasudev is an indulgent Ruma and Rukhsana Tabassum is oomphy Oona. Karan Mirchandani as the ‘out-of-the-box’ falsetto Gonzo, and Razzak Khan in a cameo as Sweety Kapoor, strike the right notes. In the censor chief track, Amit goes slightly over-board. Dilip Prabhavalkar is somewhat ill-at-ease donning the hat, though the woman in the frame is very subtly ‘exposed’. Watch out for Mahesh Bhatt, Anil Sharma, and Amrita Rao, playing themselves!

Films about the Indian film industry have had variable successes ever since the 40s and 50s. Insider jokes, irreverent humour, self-parodying, or cries of anguish from victims of hopefuls with dashed aspirations, do have potential for interesting tales, but they also have the twin pitfalls of lack of distancing and a tendency to get carried away. Sulemani Keeda had more potential than it delivers, and the bug ends up biting somewhere near the halfway mark.

Rating: **1/2



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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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