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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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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,...

Fantastic Four/FANT4STIC, Review: High on Fantasy, Low on Score

Fantastic Four/FANT4STIC, Review: High on Fantasy, Low on Score Fourth outing for Marvel’s Fantastic 4 has a thinly spread plot and is further handicapped by lack-lustre performances. While a sequel is already in the offing, the 2015 prequel to the sci-fi series that was first adapted to the screen in 1994 seems to offer little raison d’être for it. Ten years ago, the first to be released theatre version, called Fantastic 4, was critically panned, though successful at the bo...

The Gift, Review: "Simon says watch this film"

The Gift, Review: Simon says watch this film There’s an old-world fluidity about The Gift. Unhurried narrative, under-the-skin performances, music as an essential component, naturally rich visuals, a critical look at morals and scruples, and a nod to several classic films of the stalker/suspense genre, as well as an outstanding war epic, not to mention a tribute to a popular song. It is more British than American in tone and tenor, though the production house (Blue Tongue) and the write...

Mumbai Mantra-CineRise Screenwriting Programme 2015: It all begins with a story, and then …

Mumbai Mantra-CineRise Screenwriting Programme 2015: It all begins with a story, and then … Names, names and more names. And frankly, Anjum Rajabali, should consider an alternate career as a compère. Not many could rattle off name after name of film personalities and their films with such élan and in such fluent English. And even then, had the audience at the J.W. Marriott, Juhu, Mumbai, not already partaken of a sumptuous Sunday-morning breakfast, it would have found it ...

Gour Hari Dastaan/The Freedom File, Review: His-story

Gour Hari Dastaan/The Freedom File, Review: His-story Described in the press as a Kafkaesque black comedy when it was launched in 2011, Gour Hari Dastaan is based on a true story, of Gour Hari Das (now 85), with some Kafkaesque undertones, but very little or no black comedy. It cannot afford to be a comedy, let alone a black one, since it deals with the sensitive subject of the neglect and disregard suffered by those who participated in the struggle to rid India of British colonial rule. Brit...

Shaun the Sheep Movie, Review: Shaun is on

Shaun the Sheep Movie, Review: Shaun is on An animated comedy from a non Pixar/Disney/Dreamworks DNA, Shaun the Sheep could be the mouse that roared. Just above 80 minutes long, this Aardman Animations (Bristol, UK) production provides plenty of laughs in the ‘stop motion’ technique of old-style animation. Humans, animals, birds, fish, cars, buses and an entire city are all ‘cartoonised’ to come across as credible, endearing and detestable, according to the storyline. ...

Jane the Virgin: Romedy Now imports American hit telenovela series to India

Jane the Virgin: Romedy Now imports American hit telenovela series to India Romedy Now, part of the Times Network group that includes Times Now, Movies Now, ET Now, MN+ and Zoom, has brought the CBS-produced and the CW executed popular American TV series, Jane the Virgin, to India, premièring 05 August. It comprises 22 episodes of one-hour each, from the first season. Romedy Now has a further option on the next season, which premières in the USA exactly a year after the first ru...

Bangistan, Review: Citizen Wong Kar-Wai meets Raging Bull at FcDonald’s

Bangistan, Review: Citizen Wong Kar-Wai meets Raging Bull at FcDonald’s If references, allusions and name-dropping could make a film watchable, Bangistan would have arrived with a bang. Sadly for debutant director Karan Anshuman, that récipé fails to tickle the taste-buds, and the film turns out be a dish that is half un-cooked and half over-cooked. Why he chose to use crutches like parodying the title of Orson Welles’ all-time masterpiece, Citizen Kane, poking fun a...

Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation, Review: Bond-Bourne amalgamation

Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation, Review: Bond-Bourne amalgamation You couldn’t escape noticing that the Mumbai press preview of Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation was being held at the renovated Fun Republic. Two hours and eleven minutes later, you found out that the film was not about a 'nation', but about international rogues. That stated, for once, the expectations, unconsciously raised by a trivial similarity in the names of the venue and the film, were met. Inspiration for...

Drishyam, Review: Missing Corpse, Hissing Cops and Habeas Corpus

Drishyam, Review: Missing Corpse, Hissing Cops and Habeas Corpus What would drive producers to make and remake a film in five different Indian languages in a span of two years? Box-office success of preceding language versions and a potential remake goldmine at hand, or the merits of a script that tries to turn the killer v/s cops genre on its head, and could have viewers gasping for breath? In the case of Drishyam, whose Sanskritised title can be approximated as Drishya (scene/sight in Hindi...

Southpaw, Review: Loses on points

Southpaw, Review: Loses on points South is to left what north is to right, and paw stands for hand, in boxing parlance. So, a ‘southpaw’ is a boxer who takes a right side on stance, but leverages his left-hand to telling effect. In other sports, southpaw is often used to describe a person who is left-handed, as a left-handed batsman in the game of cricket. Southpaw, the film, derives its title from this terminology. In the film, the protagonist makes very little use of his left, a...

Ant-Man, Review: Up the ANTe

Ant-Man, Review: Up the ANTe When a comic-book super-hero film engages you on two fronts, exhilarating effects and hearty humour, the audience is in for a good time. It is debatable whether going the whole hog on either front, at the cost of the other, would have served the plot better, but Ant-Man has turned out to be refreshing and innovative viewing. In 1989, scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) resigns from S.H.I.E.L.D., after discovering that the organisation tried to send him off to Ru...

Mr. Holmes-The Man beyond the Myth, Review: And you thought you knew your Sherlock!

Mr. Holmes-The Man beyond the Myth, Review: And you thought you knew your Sherlock! Mr. Holmes presents a 93 year-old Sherlock without his coat and pipe, after Dr. Watson and his house-keeper Mrs. Hudson are dead and gone, living with a new housekeeper (Mrs. Munro) and her young boy (Roger) in Sussex, cultivating a keen interest in bees and nurturing an apiary, in the year 1947, having quit his Baker Street office and his profession 35 years ago, out of professional disappointment, suffering...

Masaan (a.k.a. Fly Away Solo), Review: Burning bodies, tormented souls and a minor classic

Masaan (a.k.a. Fly Away Solo), Review: Burning bodies, tormented souls Set in a city known as the holiest cremation ground in India, Masaan is made with fired-up creativity, and has won encomiums it richly deserves. Seven years ago, a documentary was made on life at the ghats (banks) of Varanasi (Banaras), of which Kashi is a part, where a large number of Hindu devotees from all over India bring their dead for cremation, and immerse the ashes in Ganga, their holiest river. The rites are perf...

Indian film-writer, lyricist, Akhtar Romani no more

Indian film-writer, lyricist, Akhtar Romani no more A rare film-writer and lyricist from the Dawoodi Bohra community, Akhtar Romani (nom de plume) passed away today in Mumbai, his home for almost all his life. He was in his early eighties. His contemporaries at the Saint Xavier’s College, Bombay, included Vijay Anand (who was to direct classic films like Guide, Jewel Thief and Johnny Mera Naam), Mahendra Kapoor (one of India’s best known playback song singers) and Ameen Sayani (ra...

The Gallows, Review: Loose noose

The Gallows, Review: Loose noose All that The Gallows can claim as interesting is the premise. After that, it is pretty much like the death by hanging scene, with the film’s trap-door flipping open, and the film itself left hanging loose and lifeless. The premise is: Twenty years after an accident caused the death of the lead actor during a high school play, students at the same small-town American school resurrect the failed stage production, in a misguided attempt to honour the anniv...

Amy, Review: Alcohol, Drugs, Sex and all that JAZZ

Amy, Review: Alcohol, Drugs, Sex and all that JAZZ (a.k.a. Amy: The Girl Behind The Name) If you are a film-maker looking for a subject, a feature-length documentary on a recently deceased top-ranking female jazz-soul artiste, who had troubled relationships and died at 27, would be as good as it gets. Add to that the fact that extensive, excellent quality footage is available or obtainable, and you are in business. But, as is inevitably the case, the million-dollar questions faced by a docum...

Bezubaan Ishq, Review: Very little to say

Bezubaan Ishq, Review: Very little to say This silent, tongue-less (literal translation of the word Bezubaan; ishq means love) tale revolves around three middle-aged friends and their families. Mansukh Patel (Sachin Khedekar) is an NRI toy manufacturer residing with his British wife, Lisa (Alexandra Ashman) and daughter Rumjhum (Sneha Ullal) in London, UK. Though the Patels live in London, they haven't forgotten their Indian traditions and values. Mansukh's younger brother, Rashmikant...

Max, Review: Sane Max

Max, Review: Sane Max A Belgian Shepherd dog called Max, working as a bomb sniffer in Afghanistan with the Marines, returns from service, after his handler Kyle (Robbie Arnell) is killed during a manoeuvre. When told by Sergeant Reyes (Jay Hernandez) that the Marines might put him down on account of his crazed and violent behaviour, as a result of post-traumatic stress, the man’s devastated family adopts the dog. Over time, the dog ends up bonding with the late Marine’s troubled 1...

Terminator Genisys, Review: Old or obsolete?

Terminator Genisys, Review: Old or obsolete? Also known as Terminator 5 and released in Real D, 3D and IMAX 3D, Genisys is an elaborately written but largely uni-dimensional tale of the saga that poses the ‘eternal’ question: what if machines tried to take-over the world? By machines, it is meant humanoids, cyborgs, robots and other hybrids with almost unbeatable strength. Either ennui has set in, or the script is too convoluted and complex, or, frankly, the execution is not compe...

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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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