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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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After, Review: Noah’s arch

After, Review: Noah’s arch Teens to twenties romances do not come to us as just pure teenage romances, which can get terribly boring. There was Love Story, with cancer as the villain, and there was Goodbye Columbus, which had a devil-may-care heroine who invites her boy-friend to live with her family and seduces him with pre-marital sex. Also in the same milieu was When Harry Met Sally, which was drawn around the premise that men and women cannot just be friends. After has a girl brough...

Tarpan, Review: Pride and prejudice

Tarpan, Review: Pride and prejudice To draw even minimal audiences, films like Tarpan need three boosters: positive reviews, film festivals exposure and word-of-mouth publicity. They pick up dark subjects, rooted in current ground reality, write them for the screen in the realistic mode, stick as far as possible to factual references as against a fictional narrative, cast unknown or at least relatively unknown actors who would nevertheless deliver, retain a technical team that can put-togethe...

Avengers, Endgame: Thanostradamus

Avengers, Endgame: Thanostradamus As star casts go, Avengers: Endgame runs up a mind-boggling score. Like in theatrical performances, where all characters come on to the stage after the performance to take a bow, Endgame brings them all on screen, even resurrecting the dead, in a show of ultimate strength, before their nemesis is vanquished. Just as it takes two lives to conquer the dark force, the dark force itself needs to be conquered not once but twice. It is ingenious writing, to lay out...

Kalank, Review: Masochistic miasma

Kalank, Review: Masochistic miasma Everything in Kalank (blemish, stigma) is grand, both in content and in form. Sets and décor, riches and poverty, locales and vehicles, make-up and costumes, dances and fights, colours and luminance, all are designed to make your jaw drop in awe. All this opulence is merely the canvas on which a heart-wrenching tragedy is painted, around the time of India’s partition, with the entire ensemble cast at the receiving end of a woeful operatic wail, ...

Seasoned with Love: The last suppers

Seasoned with Love: The last suppers How long does it take to commit two murders and get away unscathed? Fourteen minutes, according to director Lakshmi R. Iyer. Infidelity and Murder are the flavours of the season, what with the feature Andhadhun and the short The Perfect Murder. Now that the Internet provides you with a ‘How to’ kit, killing is no big deal, at least cinematically. But what fun is bumping off infidels unless they are granted their dying wish of last suppers, and ...

Hellboy, Review: Unapologetic, ugly, bloody mayhem; who’s complaining?

Hellboy, Review: Unapologetic, ugly, bloody mayhem; who’s complaining? This hell of a film, mutatis mutandis, might have come from either stable, Marvel or DC. As it happens, it owes its genesis to Dark Horse Comics graphic novels and follows on two enterprises helmed by Guillermo del Toro, in 2004 and 2008.  Del Toro was to venture into a third outing too, but that kept simmering on the back burner for a whole decade. Finally, when it saw light of day, the director’s credit ...

Pet Sematary, Review: Grave errors

Pet Sematary, Review: Grave errors Like most horror films, Pet Sematary begins with a family relocating to a remote house, near a forest, thereby extending an invitation to the supernatural to prepare a proper welcome for them. The only obvious difference is that here the spirits do not reside inside the house, but in a cemetery nearby, though the undead nevertheless float in and wreak havoc on the isolated inmates, as part of their job profile. A few genuine scares towards the end of the sto...

Romeo Akbar Walter (RAW), Review: Uncooked meal, raw deal

Romeo Akbar Walter (RAW), Review: Uncooked meal, raw deal Espionage, as a film genre, is more than 84 years old. A master, no less than Alfred Hitchcock himself, made The 39 Steps in 1935. So it is baffling that a spy thriller, made in 2017-18, is oblivious of the rudimentary ingredients entailed to engross audiences. Ennui and crawling pace are anathema to a spy story. When the yard-sticks are James Bond and even John Le Carré, a shoddy script, amateurishly executed, stands no chance ...

Agnès Varda: Diminutive doyenne of the French New Wave dead at 90

Agnès Varda: Diminutive doyenne of the French New Wave dead at 90 She would have turned 91 in two months, but breast cancer claimed her last week. The end came at her Paris home. Till the end, she remained the only female member of the French Nouvelle Vague (New Wave). Her last film was Varda by Agnès, shown at the Berlinale earlier this year. It was an unpredictable documentary from a fascinating story-teller, shedding light on her experience as a director, bringing a personal ...

Fighting with My Family, Review: Soap opera in spandex

Fighting with My Family, Review: Soap opera in spandex Somebody must tell biopic makers, especially true stories about sports personalities, that there is very little difference between one and the other. They all follow, more or less, the same road map, and get to the same place. And because these are true stories, the writers and directors do pretty little to enliven the journey, lest they be accused of taking too many liberties, or, worse, earn the ire of the personality in person, if aliv...

Gully Boy Ranveer Singh launches music label, calls it IncInk

Gully Boy Ranveer Singh launches music label, calls it IncInk You could not tell anything from the invitation, except that it was sent by YashRaj Films and had something to do with IncInk. The mystery unravelled on 29th March, at Mumbai’s Four Seasons Hotel, after a 90 minute wait. Suddenly, moviestar Ranveer Singh, who is on a roll after Gully Boy, a film in which he plays a rap-star, rolled-in to a chorus of “Baba, Baba” chants. He kept running around the hall, hugging and...

Super Deluxe, Review: Super? Yes. Deluxe? No.

Super Deluxe, Review: Super? Yes. Deluxe? No. Four plots radiate through concentric circles and are destined to coalesce one eventful day. Initially, it might trigger memories of Shawshank Redemption (1994), Pulp Fiction (1994), 3 Deewarein (2003), Love Actually (2003) and even Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Jaa Riya Hoon (2018). Think again. There are so few movies that treat their subjects in a subversive, quirky and yet painfully honest manner that you might be doing grave injustice to Super D...

National Museum of Indian Cinema: Preserving a rich heritage

National Museum of Indian Cinema: Preserving a rich heritage Director General, Films Division (FD), Prashant Pathrabe, (above, left) addressed a press briefing on 19th March, at the FD Complex, which was followed by a tour of the National Museum of Indian Cinema (NMIC), exclusively for journalists. FD was established in 1948, to articulate the energy of a newly independent nation (India gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947). For more than six decades, the organisation has s...

Junglee, Review: Don’t hunt the elephant

Junglee, Review: Don’t hunt the elephant Every 15 minutes, one elephant is filled for its tusk. In Junglee, a prize pachyderm who inhabits a sanctuary, with tusks so long that they intersect at the edges, is targetted, by an international gang of hunter-smugglers, who hope to make a fortune by selling its ivory to a Singaporean-Chinese buyer. But when they attack the unsuspecting sanctuary-owner, they are taken on by his veterinarian son, who, when off duty, is Rambo+Bruce Lee incarnate...

Dumbo, Review: Have ears, will fly

Dumbo, Review: Have ears, will fly When they first thought of a new Dumbo, perhaps the best decision Disney and Burton made was to remake their 1941 animation film in live action, adding 3D for the heightened reality effect. The first Dumbo rescued Disney from financial disaster arising out of three previous expensive films. Its 2019 avatar has a different storyline, though the name and the basic premise—that of a baby elephant that can fly--are retained. Abounding in the usual generic ...

The Least of These, Review: More was needed

The Least of These, Review: More was needed In India’s turbulent political climate, making a true-story movie on the life and work of a Christian Missionary who was accused of forced conversions and brutally murdered, along with his two sons, might not be such a good idea. That it is patchily made proves, once again, that all true stories are not film material, and not everybody can impart cinematic strength to powerful subjects. It is true that Australian missionary Graham Staines was...

Gone Kesh, Review: The bald is the beautiful

Gone Kesh, Review: The bald is the beautiful An English-Hindi composite pun constitutes the title, playing upon ‘gone case’, which term is used to describe someone who is so far ‘gone’ into something undesirable that there is no chance of redemption in that ‘case.’ While gone is retained as gone, case becomes kesh, the Hindi word for hair. And for once, the title has great relevance to the subject, although the film is not half as funny as the punning would...

Us, Review: Shadow boxing

Us, Review: Shadow boxing Us takes its own time in building up a premise and gives no indication that it is going to turn-out as a horror film, with macabre goings on and blood-baths included. To its credit, the film gives a whole new dimension to the genre, but having got there, it does not know what to do next. Repetition is the bane of any thriller, horrific or otherwise, and Us falls into that quagmire a little too early. Back in 1986, young Adelaide Thomas is on a vacation with her pare...

Ardh Satya: Govind Nihalani revisits the time of half-truth

Ardh Satya: Govind Nihalani revisits the time of half-truth Many things were happening in Indian cinema during the early 1980s. The National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) was financing and producing/co-producing unconventional, art-house, parallel cinema films, but also the rip roaring comedy Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro and the blockbuster, Gandhi. A theatre like Prithvi, set-up by the husband and wife duo of Shashi and Jennifer Kapoor in Mumbai, was becoming the hub of all drama activity, and p...

Wonder Park, Review: Who said it can’t be done?

Wonder Park, Review: Who said it can’t be done? Released in the USA with a PG certificate, Wonder Park is about an imaginary amusement park created by the imagination of a 10-year old girl and her mother.  It tweaks logic and science to create fantastical rides and talking animals, making conventional amusement parks look like child’s play. It’s good holiday viewing for the 5-12 age-group, with a riot of colours and exciting thrills, causing adrenaline rushes, with the ...

22 Yards, Review: Short of a length

22 Yards, Review: Short of a length When you pitch for a film on cricket (pun intended), you better go the whole 22 yards. In cricket, the length of the pitch, from stumps at one end to stumps at the other, is all of 22 yards. That is where the main action of the game takes place. So, with a giveaway title like 22 Yards, you can expect nothing but a film on cricket. Now let me state here, for the benefit of readers from countries that do not play cricket that in India, religion, cinema and cr...

Photograph, Review: Ode dear

Photograph, Review: Ode dear If only vignettes and mosaics could add up to a good script, Photograph would look refreshingly different. If improvised dialogue and incomplete scenes could substitute for a coherent narrative, Photograph would find its place in the album of memorable cinema. Forlornly, though, Ritesh Batra’s Photograph unpeels itself like the layers of an onion, offering emptiness at the end of the exercise, instead of discovery and resonance. Arriving with a sumptuous tr...

Captain Marvel, Review: Skrull duggery, the Kreeps, a charismatic cat and muddled memories

Captain Marvel, Review: Skrull duggery, the Kreeps, a charismatic cat and muddled memories To many Indians, who grew up reading DC comics in the 50s, 60s and 70s, Captain Marvel is a man, and he acquires super-powers upon uttering the magical acronym, SHAZAM: genius of Solomon, strength of Hercules, unbreakable will of Atlas, lightning blasts of Zeus, power of Achilles and speed of Mercury. Named Billy Batson as a human, Captain Marvel’s powers comprised super strength, flight, invulner...

11th Bengaluru International Film Festival award winners

11th Bengaluru International Film Festival award winners Sivaranjiniyum Innum Sila Pengalum, an anthology of Tamil stories, directed by Vasanth Sai, was chosen the Best Film in the Asian category of the 11th BIFFes, held in Bengaluru, during February 21-28. Sivaranjiniyum is based on women-centric short stories by Ashokmitran, Adhavan and Jeymohan. Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon (Hindi), produced and directed by Anamika Haksar, bagged two awards--FIPRESCI- International Critic...

Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon, Review: Escapist dreamscapes

Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon, Review: Escapist dreamscapes When translated, the title becomes Taking the Horse to Eat Jalebis, jalebi being an Indian sweet preparation. This is one of the longest film titles in recent times, in the tradition of yesteryear movies like Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) and Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad (1967). Ghode Ko Jalebi Khilane Le Ja Riya Hoon (GKJK...

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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

India



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