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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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Main Aur Charles, Review: Misanthropic biopic

Main Aur Charles, Review: Misanthropic biopic In the biography, The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj, by Richard Neville and Julie Clark, the serial killer’s mother summed him up. “He has the face of an angel, but somewhere, I think the devil crept into his soul,” she said. Main Aur Charles is the heavily edited, partly fictionalised but deeply rooted biopic about one of the most enigmatic criminal masterminds in 20th century history, wanted in India, Thailand, France, Gre...

Goosebumps, Review: BlackJack Stine and the ‘loose’ characters

Goosebumps, Review: BlackJack Stine and the ‘loose’ characters It’s enough to give you goosebumps: over 400 million Goosebumps books have been sold worldwide, in 32 languages, with author R.L. Stine recognised as one of the highest rated, bestselling, children’s authors in history. Goosebumps had its TV adaptation running from 1995 to 1998. Now, here comes the movie, with so much material that the makers were spoilt for choice. A clever technique is used to get past th...

Hotel Transylvania 2, Review: Vampa ire

Hotel Transylvania 2, Review: Vampa ire When you want to turn horror into comedy, what better ploy than to make them animated/CGI characters? Add 3D to that, and the spell is cast. Only problem is, the funnier it gets, the less scary it remains, and vice versa. Like the passers-by in Hotel Transylvania 2, who are far from scared at the past-their-prime monster brigade’s pathetic attempts at instilling fear in them, the audience might find the proceedings short of being very scary or too...

Shaandaar, Review: Insomniacs, maniacs, megalomaniacs and necrophiliacs

Shaandaar, Review: Insomniacs, maniacs, megalomaniacs and necrophiliacs It’s a Shaandaar combination. Producers of this eagerly-awaited film include the Dharma banner owner Karan Johar (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, My Name is Khan, Student of the Year; also director), Vikramaditya Motwane (director of the mini-classic, Udaan, and co-owner of the production house, Phantom Films, with Shaandaar director Vikas Bahl, Anurag Kashyap, and Madhu Mantena) and Anurag Kashyap himself, the director of such...

Rock the Kasbah, Review: Afghan star, American war

Rock the Kasbah, Review: Afghan star, American war                                                                             In all probability, the plot of Rock the Kasbah was worked out backwards. Somebody saw an Afghan girl named Setara (meaning ‘star’) Hussainzada sing and dance on a loca...

The Last Witch Hunter, Review: Witch one will Vin?

The Last Witch Hunter, Review: Witch one will Vin?                                                              Like the aliens in Men in Black, the witches here could pass off as persons next door. That is, until they are found out by an 800 year-old man in black, the last surviving witch-hunter. The Last Witch Hunter is not the last movie...

A Bridge of Spies, Review: Spyelberg on spy-swapping--one of theirs for two of ours

A Bridge of Spies, Review: Spyelberg on spy-swapping--one of theirs for two of ours Old school film-making at its charming best is what Steven Spielberg delivers in this potential thriller, that is, instead, crafted as a compelling commentary--on the sordid business of spying, the acceptance of the hard truth that a foreign spy operating in your country is as loyal as your spies indulging in espionage abroad, and the sacred right of every accused in America to a fair trial, be it a US citizen...

Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2, Review: Sucker bunch and the sex carrots

Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2, Review: Sucker bunch and the sex carrots                                              Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 has been described in some media reports as a not so true sequel to 2011 film, Pyaar Ka Punchnama. Not having seen the earlier Punchnama (dissection/five witnesses to a crime report report/post mortem; ‘punch’ means five), I cannot comm...

Pan, Review: Flying Pantasy

Pan, Review: Flying Pantasy Once you pick up a hundred year-old children’s story and decide to invent its unwritten prequel, 3D and CGI are obvious choices. Yes, you could go overboard on both counts, but so long as you have packed it with a generous dose of thrills, and given it break-neck pace, you can make a fantasy both exciting and interesting. Pan offers above par performances, not so common in fairy-tales, mounts a huge canvas and makes sweeping brush-strokes. There are issues ab...

Sicario, Review: One drug cartel is better than two

Sicario, Review: One drug cartel is better than two Breath-taking aerial shots of the US-Mexico border area and amazingly choreographed encounter scenes are the highlight of Sicario, a drug cartel crime thriller about an FBI-CIA joint operation that does on land what the US army and air-force have been doing in foreign countries for decades: seek, find and eliminate the enemy. Every player has questionable motives, except a couple of conscientious FBI operatives, and even they eventually fall...

Talvar, Review: Whodunit? Doesn’t matter!

Talvar, Review: Whodunit? Doesn’t matter! Like the 1950 Japanese cult film Rashomon, directed by Akira Kurosawa and often rated as one of the greatest films ever made, remade n number of times in India, Meghna Gulzar’s Talvar (sword) presents three contradictory accounts of a nation-rocking real life double murder, which variously portray the prime accused as guilty or innocent. It fictionalises names and dates, amalgamates some characters into a single entity and does not take a ...

Singh is Bling, Review: Kickass, jackass and badass

Singh is Bling, Review: Kickass, jackass and badass                                                                                       Singh is blink-ing. Maybe winking. After many head-banging, from a ledge, he is hanging.  His lady love is English talking. With them is in...

The Intern, Review: Good turn

The Intern, Review: Good turn A 30-something Internet start-up founder finds a soul-mate in a 70-something company ‘intern’. So, what does she do? Get involved with him romantically? Banish the thought. She is looking for a CEO to run the company more efficiently, and the old man has been a marketing manager. So, what does she do? Promote him to CEO? No way. She finds that her house-husband is cheating on her. So, all hell breaks loose? Not a chance. The Intern carefully avoids al...

(Maze Runner II)-The Scorch Trials, Review: Trial and terror

(Maze Runner II)-The Scorch Trials, Review: Trial and terror                                                                  Titles can mislead. Read in standalone mode, The Scorch Trials can easily be mistaken to be a film chronicling a series of court-room cases about burning issues. Of course, it is “no issue”, if ...

Kis Kisko Pyar Karoon, Review: Odd Kapils

Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon, Review: Odd Kapils                                                                                        What is Kis Kisko Pyaar Karoon (KKPK)? A remake of the Kannada film Nimbe Huli, produced by Subhash Ghai? A remake of some yet to be identified Eng...

Pawn Sacrifice, Review: Check this out, Mate

In the only Urdu/Hindi film he ever made, Indian cinema’s Bengali language grandmaster Satyajit Ray used chess as a metaphor, setting it against the backdrop of the crumbling Navabi rule over Avadh (Lucknow), and its imminent take-over by the British East India company. It was simply called Shatranj Ke Khilari (The Chess Players). Another chess film, a 30-minute short made in 1988, was called Queen Sacrifice. The present film manages with just a pawn sacrifice! Two feature-length recent ...

Black Mass, Review: Whitey’s black deeds and the FBI’s blind eye

Black Mass, Review: Whitey’s black deeds and the FBI’s blind eye Black Mass is a term used to indicate a reverse Christian mass, the inversion of the traditional Latin Mass celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church, one that celebrates the occult. People who know this would think that a film with such a name was another supernatural horror drama. It is nothing of the kind. So, the makers toyed with the idea of changing the title, but for reasons best known to them, stuck with the or...

Directors’ Diaries, by Rakesh Anand Bakshi, Book Review: A dozen journeys, a dozen destinations

Directors’ Diaries, by Rakesh Anand Bakshi, Book Review: A dozen journeys, a dozen destinations Aspiring director and son of India’s renowned film-lyricist, late Anand Bakhshi, Rakesh Bakshi has been aspiring to make his first film for a real long time. In the meanwhile, he has been writing, cycling and doing his bit for the under-privileged of local society. So far, the trail to his big break has proven to be elusive. How elusive? How frustrating? As frustrating as that some of h...

We Are Your Friends, Review: A DJ’s success recipe--EDM, BPM and PCP

Instagram founder Kevin Systrom sold his company for a billion dollars, so what are these four coming-of-age ‘bro’s doing wasting their time? In between luring young music lovers to ‘socials’ and gigs, for a fee, they are doing drugs, while nursing hopes of hitting big time. Since they live on the other side of the Hollywood valley, in San Fernando, one of them, not surprisingly, wants to become an actor; another hopes to make it as a Disc Jockey (DJ), with at least one...

The Path of Zarathustra, Review: The temperature of departure

The Path of Zarathustra, Review: The temperature of departure To say that Parsees are a minority community in India, or, for that matter, anywhere in the world, might be an understatement. Official figures put their entire population as 80,000, most of them being Indians. Followers of the prophet Zarathustra (Zoraster) and natives of Iran, they fled an oppressive regime in their parent country to seek refuge in India, and were granted asylum in what is present day Gujarat, along the western c...

Transporter Refueled, Review: Fuel efficient and fired up

Transporter Refueled, Review: Fuel efficient and fired up Originally titled The Transporter Legacy, the film’s French title remains Le Transporteur: Héritage, while in American English, it is Transporter Refueled. It is the fourth film in the Transporter franchise, with Ed Skrein replacing three-timer Jason Statham in the title role of Frank Martin, a move that a lot of Statham fans have found hard to digest. The first Transporter movie (2002) was a moderate success. It spawned t...

She’s Funny That Way, Review: Screwball sex comedy, the Bogdanovich way

She’s Funny That Way, Review: Screwball sex comedy, the Bogdanovich way In Ernst Lubitsch’s Cluny Brown (1946), Charles Boyer, playing Adam Belinski, says to Jennifer Jones, “In Hyde Park, some people like to feed nuts to the squirrels. But if it makes you happy to feed squirrels to the nuts, who am I to say nuts to the squirrels?” Writer-director Peter Bogdanovich liked this phrase so much, that he made it the title for his latest film, included an acknowledged clip ...

Chehere: A Modern Day Classic, Review: What’s in a name?

Chehere: A Modern Day Classic, Review: What’s in a name? Even seven years after it was shot, Chehere: A Modern Day Classic, was unlikely to see even the light of modern day. That it has managed to reach the screen is a miracle, as is the survival of its lead actress, Manisha Koirala, who was battling cancer when the film was almost complete. First screened at the Pravasi Film Festival, New Delhi, in 2010, probably short of a few Manisha scenes, the film was initially titled Badalte Cheh...

Phantom, Review: RAW-hide Rambo

Phantom, Review: RAW-hide Rambo Saif Ali Khan comes in for Salman, Katrina stays put, so do the London locales and the secret agent assassin theme, as director Kabir Khan tries to go one up on his last outing in the genre, Ek Tha Tiger (2012). He has claimed that Tiger was unrealistic, whereas Phantom is close to reality. That claim is highly debatable. Phantom is indeed inspired by real and devastating, events that wreaked terror in Mumbai, in November 2008, killing 167 persons. That does ma...

The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Review: US nephew, Russian nephew, German niece and the sinister Italian plot

The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Review: US nephew, Russian nephew, German niece and the sinister Italian family plot It’s not about a man or the man, and the clever acronym for the secret agent network is a clear reference to Uncle Sam, alias the President of the United States of America, even though United Network Command for Law and Enforcement (UNCLE) is formally created only in the very last shot of the film. Then, again, it is not about Americans only. There’s a Russian KGB man too,...

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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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