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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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Bimal Roy Film Festival: Dharmendra, Helen, Ameen Sayani honoured

Bimal Roy Film Festival: Dharmendra, Helen, Ameen Sayani honoured Cinemas in Mumbai usually play the country’s national anthem, ‘Jana gana mana’, written by Rabindranath Tagore, before the feature film, a practice mandated by the government. Two weeks ago, at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (BVB) in south Mumbai, which is not a regular cinema hall, the song was played as part of the Bengali film that had incorporated it in its credit titles. Udayer Pathe (on the way to enlightenm...

Joy, Review: Mop to the Top

Joy, Review: Mop to the Top Is it possible to watch a film based on a true story and feel that some of the scenes are unreal, artificial or contrived? It is. Probably more so, when the writer/director takes liberties galore with the original story and tries to universalise it, adding smart anecdotes and witticisms where honest narrative might have worked better. Joy is one such example. It’s a genre-defying tale, and that’s welcome. Half-baked plot points and half-hearted characte...

The 5th Wave, Review: Earthnic cleansing

The 5th Wave, Review: Earthnic cleansing Aliens want the earth, without the baggage of humans. Obviously, 6.5 bn humans are not going to commit mass suicide, to oblige the extra-terrestrials, so the aliens decide to exterminate them. But, for reasons unclear, they are unable to do so in one attempts; several ‘waves’ are launched, some of them literal and tidal, to carry out operation decimation. Nothing new, except plot structure. And the not entirely credible premise that childre...

The 33, Review: Deep, Down, Dark, and Die-hard

The 33, Review: Deep, Down, Dark, and Die-hard A Chilean-Colombian co-production, The 33 (Los 33 in Spanish) has a Mexican director, Puerto Rican and the son of Guatemalan immigrants as two of the writers, American, British, Irish, French, Brazilian and Filipino members in the cast, and even more nationalities in the production. This is what we can call an international ensemble film, in the real sense of the world. It is an almost true reproduction of a mining disaster that trapped 33 miner...

The Hateful Eight, Review: Bounty-hunters v/s cowboy gangs

The Hateful Eight, Review: Bounty-hunters v/s cowboy gangs Some things are characteristic Tarantino: Crime, betrayal and revenge; several guns going off at regular intervals; chapter-wise narrative; a central black character, repeatedly referred to as ‘nigger’; flash-backs or intertwined narrative; a large ensemble cast, with good footage to each actor; direct or indirect reference to the Bible or Jesus Christ. The Hateful Eight has all these elements, and even more QT traits. And...

Color Me Rich: Fact, Fiction or ‘Faction’

Color Me Rich: Fact, Fiction or ‘Faction’ Mohan Deep Chandiramani, who never uses his last name, was in college during my time, only he was 3-4 years my senior. I do not recall meeting him then. We met some ten years after I had finished college, and both of us had become freelance journalists. I did not know even then that he was also a poet, short-story writer, novelist and playwright, both in Sindhi and English. Whereas I confined myself to writing mainly about the arts, he of...

Daddy’s Home, Review: The Ex factor

Daddy’s Home, Review: The Ex factor A sensitive, sentimental true story goes through Hollywood’s spin doctors and comes out with a load of slap-stick comedy, a few sharply contrasting stereo-types, and some above the PG-13 certification content. If you can detach yourself from identifying with a well-intentioned hubby who goes crazy when faced with the prospect of losing his nuclear family, you can enjoy several laugh-out-loud moments. If you stay with the plot, however, these lau...

Our Brand is Crisis, Review: Dirty politricks

Our Brand is Crisis, Review: Dirty politricks On one hand, Our Brand is Crisis dispels all delusions anybody might still have about elections being the ultimate manifestation of democracy…and how! On the other, it makes mud-slinging look exceedingly simple to indulge in, with pictures and quotes being the only real weapons you need. Of course, there are the obligatory debates, baring of hearts on live television, and the dirty tricks department of state machinery, that play their parts...

Third Eye 14th Asian Film Festival, 2015, III: Bad features, good shorts

  Third Eye 14th Asian Film Festival, 2015, III: Bad features, good shorts Two national awards, one for the best film in its language (Haryanvi, spoken in the north Indian state of Haryana, which shares its capital Chandigarh with Punjab) and another for best supporting actress do not contribute to a completely predictable story that drags for far too long. Pagadi (meaning turban), also titled Pagadi—The Honour, is about the heartless custom of killing young men and women who fall i...

Third Eye 14th Asian Film Festival, 2015, II: Features--Picks and pricks

Third Eye 14th Asian Film Festival, 2015, II: Features--Picks and pricks AFF has a European connection too, and a competitive section that is restricted to short films. Sub-sections include Spectrum Asia, which had 18 features, Focus on Israel six, Indian Vista six, Japanese Masters two, Through the Women’s Eye six and there were four films in the European Connection, by the Turkish-German director, Fatih Akin. The festival also celebrated 60 years of Satyajit Ray’s Pather Pancha...

Third Eye 14th Asian Film Festival, 2015, I: Mixed fare, few takers

  Third Eye 14th Asian Film Festival, 2015, I: Mixed fare, few takers It came at the fag end of the year, a week of holidays and unwinding. Prabhat Chitra Mandal, the organising film society, has a large member-base, and has held the festival at bigger and multiple screen venues in the past. Financial constraints, easy availability of films on alternative platforms and the plethora of film festivals that are held these days in Mumbai and elsewhere mean diminishing audiences. So,...

Point Break, Review: Death-defying spectacle and spectacular deaths

  Point Break, Review: Death-defying spectacle and spectacular deaths Point break: Noun. In surfing, a type of long-lasting wave, found off a coast with a headland or point. Example: A point break is formed when a swell moves around the land, almost at a right angle to the beach, and a break, which begins near the point, gradually progresses along the wave. A young Johnny Utah (Luke Bracey) watches helplessly as his extreme sports partner Jeff (Max Thieriot) falls to his death from a mou...

Monster Hunt, Review: Happy hunting

Monster Hunt, Review: Happy hunting A project that took 10 years to make it to the screen, Monster Hunt rewards you with a good catch of lovable anthromorphic characters and oodles of humour, with numerous subtle messages of inclusion, anti-stereo-typing and tolerance, interwoven into rich tapestry. In medieval China, monsters ruled the land. Then humans fought an all-out war against them, in an attempt to seize the land. They outwitted the monsters and succeeded in driving them into the dar...

Sadhana, Indian star turned recluse, passes away at 74

Sadhana, Indian star turned recluse, passes away at 74 Sadhana Shivdasani, known by her first name/screen name, succumbed to cancer on Christmas day in Mumbai. Born in Karachi in 1941, British India, Sadhana was named after her father's favorite, actress-dancer Sadhana Bose. Her father was the brother of actor Hari Shivdasani, father of actress Babita. The family fled from Karachi during the post-Partition riots and settled in Mumbai.               ...

Star Wars, Episode 7-The Force Awakens, Review: But is still drowsy

Twice during the Mumbai première screening, entries were greeted with whistles—once when Harrison Ford (Han Solo) entered his spaceship, right of frame to left, accompanied by Chewbacca, and the second time when R2-D2 was shown in the right corner, with C-3PO leading us to him. The audience included Indian superstar-director-producer Aamir Khan and his director wife, Kiran Rao, though it is impossible to ascertain whether the applauders included this couple. Both the applauded ch...

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary, XI: PornograIFFI

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary, XI: PornograIFFI Highly erotic content is not unusual at IFFI, or, for that matter, any international film festival. But pornography? That’s not so common. Many years ago, there was a film based on the life of a porn-star, with several close-ups of her inspecting the sexual organs of the men she was to choose from, based on the appearance of their manhood, who would be paired with her in the scenes to be shot. More recently, we had Lars von Trier’s m...

MFF 17, by Jio-MAMI, Festival Diary, V

MFF 17, by Jio-MAMI, Festival Diary, V Long festivals and so many films to watch, besides the regular weekly releases to see and review—not unexpectedly, festival diaries go into several parts, and even get interrupted by another festival that follows on the heels of the earlier one. MFF17 was followed by IFFI. But there still so much to day about MFF, so here’s one more instalment of the Diary. Thithi is a two-hour long Kannada film set in rural Karnataka. It has earned rave rev...

Peanuts, Review: Dog and underdog

Peanuts, Review: Dog and underdog Undeniably, there is a large section of American comic-strip fans who are nuts about peanuts. There is a small section of Indians who feel the same, and have followed the exploits and ‘profound’ philosophy of good ol’ Charlie Brown and his dog Snoopy, for decades. Charles M. Schulz’s comic strip, Peanuts, first appeared in newspapers in 1950. Recently, there have been Bill Melendez-directed animated projects featuring Charlie Brown, c...

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary, X: NFDC and Incredible India’s Film Bazaar

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary, X NFDC and Incredible India’s Film Bazaar This year, the Bazaar saw participation of more than 1,100 delegates, from over 38 countries. Approximately 157 new South Asian films were shown in the viewing room, and 37 participants from 5 different countries were in the producers' lab. 19 projects were selected in the co-production market and 18 scripts in the three screenwriters' labs. Encouraging figures. A newspaper report, on 26 November 2015 rea...

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary, IX: Advance to the rear

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary, IX: Advance to the rear ...

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary, VIII: Did the best ones win?

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary, VIII: Did the best ones win? Without any doubt, my favourite for Best Picture was Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia) directed by Ciro Guerra. The Jury, too, found the black and white film about the Amazon, its rape by greedy foreigners and the destruction of the mythical but pristine lives of its native inhabitants “mind-blowing”, which is reason for feeling vindicated. This is the eighth or ninth time, out of eleven IFFIs at Goa, that my pick for the...

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary, VII

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary, VII This is being written the day before the closing ceremony, where the winners will be announced. I have missed Filosofi Kopi (Philosophy Coffee, Indonesia), Labyrinth of Lies (Germany) and Journey to the Shore (Japan/France). Moreover, one competition film has yet to be screened, so my front-runner list may face an upset. But then, the upset can come anyway, if the jury’s opinions differ from mine. So, these are the films I have seen, and my favourites...

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary VI

Continuing short reviews of films, seen at the 46th International Film Festival of India. (See Festival Diary I, II, III, IV and V for more coverage) Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara: India: Zoya Akhtar Dude, this was released in 2011! So how come you are writing about it now? Simple. I saw it NOW! Daughter of a writer-poet father, one of India’s best-known, and an actress who was famous as a child star, Zoya is perhaps not as famous as her brother Farhan, who is an actor-director-producer-wr...

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary V

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary V Continuing short reviews of films, seen at the 46th International Film Festival of India. (See Festival Diary I, II, II and IV for more coverage) Father (Babai): Germany/Kosovo/Republic of Macedonia: Visar Morina Leaving the narrative open and blending real-time and flash-forward cost the otherwise praiseworthy film the wider appreciation it deserved. Just one seamless insertion had many viewers wondering what happened. Was it all a dream? Or was just that s...

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary, III

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary, III Diary pages have got juggled, inadvertently, so, though numbered III, this page should have been IV. Please excuse the oversight and treat this as IV. Although posted earlier, IV is actually III. Austerity is the name of the game, mismanagement is the characteristic and continuing hostility towards media, and, in some cases, delegates too, are factors that dominate IFFI Goa 2015. A circus called the Film Bazaar, organised by the National Film Development Co...

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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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