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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com 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. 

 

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Prassthanam, Review: Loyalty, integrity and legacy, to see or not to see, that is the question

Prassthanam, Review: Loyalty, integrity and legacy, to see or not to see, that is the question When you have classics like the Mahabharat, Ramayan and Shakespeare’s works, why look elsewhere for inspiration? Update the setting and references but retain the blood and gore, conceit and deceit, loyalty and betrayal, vice and avarice, and above all, good and evil. You now have a story that every lover of mythology, every cinephile identifies with, and the figure could be well above a billio...

The Zoya Factor, Review: Cricket superstitions, and bowling a ‘maiden’ over

The Zoya Factor, Review: Cricket superstitions, and bowling a ‘maiden’ over It’s a romantic comedy about cricket, superstition and finding your soulmate after several heart-breaks. Strange bedfellows? Not if you know your cricket, appreciate the quirky beliefs of cricketers and can empathise with a woman who has been dumped several times, yet dreams of finding Mr. Right very soon. All three angles are developed substantially, yet something is missing. Perhaps, unlike all the...

Rambo-Last Blood: Rambo No. 5

Rambo-Last Blood: Rambo No. 5 On its last legs, rather last leg, the Rambo series takes one last shot at the franchise, extending its title from the 1982 sample, First Blood. Nobody can quarrel with this confessional finality of the moniker of Last Blood, which could not but be the last poke of the syringe, or a last bow to the bow, in a subject that has already drained itself out, and badly needed a transfusion to save itself. If Last Blood is that transfusion, it is contaminated, for it is ...

The Family Man: Say Hi, to the middle-class guy, who’s a world class spy

The Family Man: Say Hi, to the middle-class guy, who’s a world class spy National award winner for acting (films) and Padma Shri (civilian honour) awardee Manoj Bajpayee (Satya, Gangs of Wasseypur-1, Bhonsle) makes his digital debut in the eagerly anticipated Amazon Original series, The Family Man, which releases 20 September on Amazon Prime Video. Created by producer-director duo of Raj & DK (Raj Nidimoru & Krishna DK; Shor in the City, Happy Ending, Stree), The Family Man wil...

Dream Girl, Review: Lady Boy’s multiple nightmares

Dream Girl, Review: Lady Boy’s multiple nightmares Can one accuse film-makers of misleading audiences by describing their films as anything but what they really are? Dream Girl, dubbed ‘family entertainer by its makers,’ panders to below the belt viewers and frustrated loners, under the garb of showcasing the lead actor’s mimicking talent, and providing a telephonic helpline to lonely hearts. It is a series of stand-up comic jokes, with one-liners, puns and double ente...

Badshaah Pahelwan, Review: There’s a brown wrestler in the boxing ring, tra la la la la

Badshaah Pahelwan, Review: There’s a brown wrestler in the boxing ring, tra la la la la When director of photography S. Krishna turned producer just over two years ago, vicariously, through his wife, Swapna, having directed two action genre films, he decided to make his third film in nine Indian languages. Down the line, he settled for five, with the original in his native Kannada, and dubbed versions in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam. Rather ambitious of Krishna, considering the fi...

Chhichhore, Review: Posers for losers, choosers and imposers

Chhichhore, Review: Posers for losers, choosers and imposers Few ideas would be more contradictory than a parent’s attempt to revive his dying son by calling his college mates to the Intensive Care Unit of a posh hospital and collectively narrating to him, in some detail, their recollections of the hellcyon days they spent in a college hostel, as a bunch of slimy, gooey, swearing, cheating, boozing, smoking, rude, flippant, frivolous ‘losers’. All this is done in the hope th...

Saaho, Review: Posture Boys

Saaho, Review: Posture Boys Grand emptiness fills the screen as the Saaho saga unfolds. There is a semblance of a plot and a picture post-card collage of both serene and breath-taking visuals. However, most unfortunately, the most crucial element of a well-crafted film, story-telling, is at a discount. Gory and one-sided fights, a floating, free-falling and soaring mortal superhero, and flesh flaunting femme fatales cannot compensate for flimsy premises and disbelief inviting sequences. Prit...

47 Meters Down-Uncaged, Review: Shallow Attempt at Hollow Horror

This underwater horror-survival movie takes its cameras and main cast down 47 meters (going by the title) and discovers a Mayan labyrinth of caves and cages. When one cage is broken open, out come deadly sharks. Oh, they are as blind as dead bats, but as hungry as whale-sized ravens. Why did four teenage girls venture into uncharted oceanic depths, and will any of them re-surface alive? To find out, you will have to endure some amateurish story-telling and some cyclical, repetitive scares. Mi...

Bhonsle, Review: Cinema of no escape

A maker with a penchant for addressing social and sociological malaises tries his hand at the intra-nation village/small town to big city trans-migration issue in India, as seen through three different angles, by inhabitants of a Mumbai chawl (shanty/slum). Though Bhonsle is largely realistic cinema, Devashish Makhija, nevertheless, bends his treatment occasionally, to use tropes to move the story forward. The result is an above average film that has enough merit to be watchable on its own, bu...

Angry Birds Movie 2, Review: And angry birdwatchers 2

Angry Birds Movie 2, Review: And angry birdwatchers 2 To even begin getting lightly entertained, you will have to sit through the first twenty minutes of Angry Birds Movie 2, which are a cacophonic assault on your senses. During this testing time, you are served a machine-gun fire recap and a kind of general introduction to the birds and pigs that are going to play out a tale of spurned birdy love and its calamitous consequences. Proceedings do get more and more tolerable, and offer a modicum...

Angel Has Fallen, Review: Dad’s Bad, Banning’s Mad, Jennings’s Glad

Angel Has Fallen, Review: Dad’s Bad, Banning’s Mad, Jennings’s Glad Angel here is the guardian angel of the President of the United States of America, and fallen refers to his being critically wounded and, allegedly, falling from grace. So much for ethereal and angelic interpretations of the title. Now, the subject: it is a run-of-the-mill ‘cop injured in attempt to murder a VVIP that kills all others except him, falsely accused of attempted murder, discredited, arrest...

Crawl, Review: Alligator…will it get her?

Crawl, Review: Alligator…will it get her? If you were to consider making a film about a creature that has equally or more lethal Jaws than sharks, you would have little problem coming up with the alligator. In fact, it is a more dangerous and slimy looking being than the shark. An alligator’s jaw exerts 1,342 kg of pressure, giving it the most powerful bite ever recorded in a living animal. It can swim at 32.18km/hr, faster than the Olympic record. And the fact that it is an amph...

Yomeddine, Review: Disability or this ability?

Yomeddine, Review: Disability or this ability? Unlikely companions embark on an impossible journey, to trace their roots, hundreds of miles away, on a donkey cart, with little money and barest of supplies. Both, the journey and the destination, hold many surprises for the two, some pleasant, some very unpleasant. On the way, they offer you a tribute to the indomitable human spirit, but also make you realise that in a society of regulars and normals, the irregular and abnormal cannot find thei...

Batla House, Review: Policeman with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Batla House, Review: Policeman with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Distinguishing one police thriller from another is becoming an increasingly difficult task. He is part of an incident/encounter that results in deaths of alleged criminals. The officer’s marital life is disrupted due to his erratic working hours and heavy post-traumatic stress. Having had enough, the wife threatens to leave him. The incident creates controversy and he runs afoul of the powers that be. Most of his higher-...

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Review: Good, but not as Tarantino was, once upon a time

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Review: Good, but not as Tarantino was, once upon a time It is inspired by the murders of actress Sharon Tate and her friends at the hands of a hippy cult in 1969, only the film re-writes this historical fact. It is inspired by the super-hit spaghetti Westerns of the mid to late 60s, led by Italian director Sergio Leone, only he is never mentioned in the film. It is a satirical take on martial arts’ ‘God’ Bruce Lee, but takes an amazingly unfla...

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Review: The spirit of Sarah Bellows, and the trauma of teenage fellows

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Review: The spirit of Sarah Bellows, and the trauma of teenage fellows Though the voice-over insists that stories hurt and stories heal, and that if they are repeated very often, they become true, any amount of repetition will not succeed in making Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark seem anything like real. Hurt, it does, heal, I wonder! It’s a horror story, pure and simple, or, rather, neither very pure nor very simple. A 70 year-old mansion has its se...

Jabariya Jodi, Review: Scaring, paring and pairing

Jabariya Jodi, Review: Scaring, paring and pairing Imagine a country where dowry demands are the bane. Imagine a state in that country where the demands of families of educated and gainfully employed men of marriageable age range in the region of one to ten million bucks. Now imagine a gang that kidnaps such extortionist grooms and marries them off to the hapless women, at gunpoint, after giving them the treatment. Jodi, literally, means a ‘pair’ or ‘couple’, in Urdu a...

Dora and the Lost City of Gold, Review: Adorable Dora, the explora

Dora and the Lost City of Gold, Review: Adorable Dora, the explora Dora is shown first as a six-year old, living in the forest with her explorer parents, and then as a sixteen year-old, studying in high school. That is highly appropriate, because Dora and the Lost City of Gold has something for all those who are in the age-group of 6-16, and some more for the older folks, who have seen 17 or more summers. The film is largely driven by the actress playing Dora, who is simply scintillating. TV...

Khandaani Shafakhana, Review: Familial Clinic, Unfamiliar picnic

Khandaani Shafakhana, Review: Familial Clinic, Unfamiliar picnic A title like that would suggest a medical practice that has been in the business for generations and garnered a formidable reputation of efficacy in treatment. Khandaani Shafakhana (Urdu for Familial Clinic) is not about any such practice. The subject is sex, in general, and the distressing conditions of erectile dysfunction and lack of libido in particular. Okay, so they have a misleading title. You could overlook this fact if ...

Chase--No Mercy to Crime, Review: Robbing trains for electoral gains

Chase--No Mercy to Crime, Review: Robbing trains for electoral gains A taut crime thriller in the making, Chase: No Mercy to Crime proceeds at a languorous pace that is quickened only by some rapid cuts and jerky pans. It is based on true events that spanned two Indian states, and the criminals-police chase crossed into Nepal and Thailand too. But, unless the thrills are present and confined to the first few scenes, which I missed due to awful road traffic, the film ends up being a routine cr...

Ash is Purest White, Review: Never Love a Gangster

Ash is Purest White, Review: Never Love a Gangster Ash is Purest White is a tale of unrequited love that flows seamlessly along the backdrop of the socio-political upheavals in China, during 2001-18. It is an ode to old-fashioned love, set amidst gangsters and con-artistes, making two, revolutionary, and highly controversial, observations: gangster mobs are the last vestiges of loyalty and righteousness, and men are incapable of reciprocating women’s sublime love. Qiao (Zhao Tao) lives...

Family of Thakurganj, Review: Nannu, Munnu and nothing New, New

Family of Thakurganj, Review: Nannu, Munnu and nothing New, New Referencing dozens of mafia/gangster movies made in India and the West, Family of Thakurganj glorifies crime for the major part, gets into a conscientious hiccup and sermonising after the midway mark, and ends-up offering ‘crime kills crime’ as a solution against the rot of corruption that has set in the entire fabric of the Indian police/law/politics nexus. Except for a couple of twists in the plot, there is little t...

Jabariya Jodi, First look: Swinging infection

Jabariya Jodi, First look: Swinging infection Jodi, literally, means a pair, in Urdu and Hindi. It also refers to husband and wife. Jabar or jabr is force, and jabariya, by extension, means forced or forcibly formed. So, we now understand the title of the upcoming film Jabariya Jodi to mean ‘Forced Couple’. As indicated above, the inference here is that the husband and wife were forced into matrimony. Nothing earth-shaking about it, in a country where thousands of such marriages t...

The Lion King, Review: The Lions Sing

For a film production company that has been in the animation business for 90 years, and earned its initial popularity by creating Mickey Mouse, making a film, replete with state-of-the-art, photorealistic computer images of a host of animals and birds, has to be basic instinct. That it tells the story of lions, hyenas, vultures, and other creatures whose names one needs to look-up in Google, or Oxford or Cambridge or Merriam Webster dictionaries, that possess human instinct rather than animal ...

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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 FilmFestivals.com 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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