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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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Review of the film Sabotage

Sabotage Exciting, but not the most appropriate title for the story. Sabotage was called Ten, before they settled on Sabotage. Apparently, the subject has had title issues right from 1943, a few years after Dame Agatha Christie wrote the multiple murder mystery novel. It is, after all, her most adapted piece. In '43, it was staged as a play under the book’s original UK title, Ten Little Niggers, but only after changing the ending. In 2005, Kevin Elyot, screenwriter for man...

Review of the film Hola Venky!

Hola Venky! What are a Spanish greeting and an Indian chicken fast-food brand name doing together in a film title? Why was it titled ‘Hola Benky’ earlier? So, what is the film all about? In 2013, could a feature film really have been made on a budget of Rs. 10 lakh (1 million)/$16,000? Who is the writer-director, Sandeep Mohan? Lead actors Roger Narayan and Sonia Balcazar….what is their background? Who are the supporting actors? Is it worth watching? BTW: Where does Ma...

Review of the film Muppets Most Wanted

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Muppets Most Wanted A franchise that probably suffered due to the committee-style of film-making, Muppets Most Wanted does have its moments. At the end of it all, though, one feels that it is a case of wasted opportunities. Too many insider jokes, too many take-offs and too many guest appearances of little consequence make the eighth Muppet outing nowhere near the best. A muppet is a cross between a marionette and a puppet, created by Jim Henson (died 1990), which lends itself to an interestin...

Need for Speed? Indeed!

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Need for Speed Steven Spielberg/DreamWorks SKG Pictures’ production Need for Speed is a rivetting car racing thriller, which, though inspired by a video-game, is compelling viewing, even as a stand-alone brand. It justifies the add-on 3D after-thought as a wise decision. Stunts that were confined to clever use of the principle of ‘persistence of vision’, and created by smart editing, in films of the 60s and 70s, like Bullitt and French Connection, come-off spectacularly smooth...

Shashi Kapoor, on his 76th birthday

Call it co-incidence or destiny, but I got to meet, and shake the hand of, Shashi Kapoor, on his 76th birthday. For the last six years, I could not bring myself to meeting him because I could not bear to see him on a wheel-chair. But I did come very close to him at the service of his brother Shammi Kapoor, who passed away in 2011. I bumped into Shashi's daughter Sanjana at an event two years ago, and she re-assured me his illness was not all that bad. There was a lot of talk abou...

Series and franchises: Milking cash cows or creating new content?

Abhishek Bachchan, Indian lead actor and son of legendary Amitabh Bachchan, who has acted in all three outings of the superhit Dhoom series of action films made over the last ten years, and Vijay Krishna Acharya, writer of all three and director of the third film in the series, were on the stage on day 2 of FICCI FRAMES, the three-day international convention on media and entertainment which concluded in Mumbai yesterday. Working in a franchise such as 'Dhoom' and ...

Animation Awards at FICCI FRAMES 2014

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Awards for outstanding animation work in cinema and television were announced and given at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)'s 15th annual media conference, FRAMES, which was held during March 12-14, at the Renaissance Hotel, Mumbai. Both national and international talent was recognised. A list of the award winners is pasted along with this report, in PDF format. It is surely appreciable that a lot of Indian animators won for their work in Hollywood and ...

STAR TV India CEO Uday Shankar prefers some regulation over no regulation

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In its 15th year, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)'s annual international conference on Media and Entertainment, FRAMES, kicked-off this morning at the Renaissance Hotel, Mumbai. A long introductory session spread-over into the next session, and the overlap continued into the afternoon. Manish Tiwari, the Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, scheduled to attend, was conspicuous by his absence, and his Secretary in the Ministry, Bimal J...

FICCI FRAMES

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Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) is holding its 15th annual international media conclave, called FRAMES, at Mumbai, on the 12th, 13th and 14th of March 2014. Thousands of delegates and media-persons will gather to listen to eminent speakers from cinema, television, radio, gaming and other related industries, on the state-of-the-art and challenges at hand. FICCI will also release the KPMG annual report on the entertainment industry, with figures, trends and predictio...

Review of the Indian Hindi film Total Siyapaa

Total Siyapaa www: wail, woe, waste Siyapaa, spelt variously as siapa, seapa, siyaapaa, siyapa, etc., is a Punjabi word that means ‘wailing’. This film, which was earlier titled Aman ki Asha (meaning peace hoped for, Aman and Asha also being common names in Pakistan/India and the names of the lead characters in the film), swings so dramatically between farce and bathos that the audience is bound to wail time and again. Remade, with some obvious adaptation/localisation, from Only...

Review of 300: Rise of an Empire

  300: Rise of an Empire                                                                              ...

Review of the film Mr. Peabody and Sherman

Mr. Peabody and Sherman High-grade animation in 3D, endearing characters, a smart role-reversal (man>dog<man) and large doses of language-based humour make Mr. Peabody and Sherman a thoroughly enjoyable experience, for both children and adults. Using his most ingenious invention, the WABAC (pronounced ‘wayback’) time machine, ‘Mr.’ Peabody, the most decorated and famous dog in the world, and his adopted abandoned baby-boy Sherman, hurtle back in time to exp...

Review of the film, Non-Stop

Catch me if you can! One more aeroplane thriller? Indeed! Non-Stop offers a few new twists but fails to explain apparently illogical and far-fetched premises. Some rapid-fire technical jargon, and the villain’s motivation, would even qualify as ‘flights of fancy’. An alcoholic Federal Air Marshal (whose duty is to escort US flights, to prevent terrorist attacks and hijacking attempts) Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) has to identify and pre-empt an on-board bad-man, who threatens t...

Review of the film Dallas Buyers Club

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Dallas Buyers Club A bargain, at any price! It’s not often that film scripts take 21 years to reach screens. It’s not often, in these multi-million dollar budget times that a Hollywood film is made in just $5-8million, shot in 25 days. It’s not often that you sit through a docu-feature/biopoc 117 minutes long and feel every minute was worth it. It’s not often that you get to see a film as rivetting as Dallas Buyers Club. Back in 1992, an aspiring film-maker named Craig...

Review of the film Pompeii

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Pompeii Love and Lava As you watch Pompeii, the elements of its screenplay start breaking down: rebellion, sadistic massacre, gladiators and arenas, quest for revenge, love between high and low, white-black man bonding, a villain who will stop at nothing to get the heroine, divine intervention to cleanse the earth of a (debauch) whole city, lovers who are eventually ready to die for each other. Comparison with Titanic is only natural. Director Paul William Scott Anderson (Shopping, Mortal Kom...

Review of the film Monuments Men

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Monuments Men WWII mission to rescue...objects of art! A result of monumental research and dedication by author Robert Edsel and based on the book written by him, with Bret Witter, Monuments Men comes across as half a thriller but a welcome deviation from the oft-repeated subject of rescue missions across enemy lines, set in the World War II period. Co-writer and director George Clooney eschews the temptation to go all guns blazing in this dramatisation of a true story, and restricts bullets a...

Review of the film, Winter's Tale

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Winter’s Tale Set in a mythic New York City, and spanning 118 years, Winter’s Tale is about miracles, sublime love, and the age-old battle between good and evil. To justify the title, there is tons of snow and extreme cold in the story and the locations, including a barefoot walk on ice by its heroine. Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is a state-of-the-art thief, whose own heart is stolen by a 20 year-old rich girl, Beverly Penn (Jessica Brown Findlay), daughter of millionaire Isaac Penn...

Review of the film, one By two

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‘one By two’ fails to reach the half-way mark A term used by two restaurant guests, instructing waiters to serve one dish/beverage to the two of them in equal portions, ‘one By two’ apparently wants to suggest that the sharing of a man and a woman’s lives, first as boy-friend and girl-friend, and then as husband and wife, are of a similar equation. It also takes a long, indulgent look at TV reality dance shows, how they attract both bottom of the rung strata and ac...

Review of the film, Club 60

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A matter of life above death                                                                              &nbs...

Review of the film, Vampire Academy

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Review of the film, Vampire Academy Quite literally, the film is set in an academy for vampires, though the theme, obviously, is not restricted to academics. There is a lot of blood, some gore, plenty of blood-drinking and very human like intrigue within the Moroi (peaceful, mortal vampires) and the Strigoi (immortal, evil vampires). The last thing you expect in a horror film is talk-talk-talk, yet there is plenty of it here. Sadly, even after so much verbosity, little is conveyed effectively. ...

Review of the film, Rock Paper Dice Enter

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Working her way up from the sound and editing departments in several outings over 12 years, Indo-Canadian director Shreela Chakrabartty debuts with Rock Paper Dice Enter. It is written by another Indo-Canadian, Kash Gauni, who has jointly produced the film with Shreela. There’s one more Indian connection, a character played by Ojas Joshi, but that is where the Indianness ends. Canadian in feel, inspired by Hollywood in treatment, and international in the issues it addresses, the film has ...

Review of the film, 'her'

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her ‘her’, a futuristic story about ‘him’ (Joaquin Phoenix) and five hers (Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde and Portia Doubleday), is an engaging film that compels you to reflect, and challenges you to label it. At first, it appears to be a tongue-in-cheek take on futuristic technology (writer-director Spike Jonze had a real-life terrible experience with a smartphone app). Then, it draws you into the lonely world of the curiously named Theodore Tw...

Jabbar Patel, Vijay Desai demand pre-festival coverage from journalists seeking accreditation at the Yashwant Int. Film Festival

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Yashwant International Film Festival organisers Jabbar Patel and Vijay Desai insult media This year marked the fourth successive edition of the Yashwant International Film Festival (YIFF), held in Mumbai and organised by the YashwantRao Chavan Pratishthan/Chavan Centre, a Foundation inspired by the memory of one of India’s leading politicians and a patron of the arts, Y.B. Chavan. It comprises a selection of films courtesy the Pune International Film Festival (PIFF), which precedes it, an...

Ratings of films shown at the 42nd. International Film Festival of India, Goa, 23 November-03 December, 2011

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Here's my IFFI 2011 'star'-cast: Features Consul of Bordeaux: *** Bullhead: *** Palawan Fate: **1/2 Elena: *** Nader and Simin, A Separation: **** Oranges and Sunshine: *** Restoration: ***1/2 Mill and the Cross: ***1/2 Volcano: *** Mother's Paradise: **1/2 Abu, Son of Adam: ***1/2 (seen at MAMI's MFF) Dance Town: ***1/2 The Dry Valley: **1/2 Joanna: *** My Australia: *** National Alley: ***1/2 House of Tolerance: ***1/2 The First Grader: **1/2 Koko and the Ghost: *** The K...

Locarno Director Olivier Père announces Open Doors for India in 2011

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Open Doors and attractive prizes for India at Locarno Olivier Père, the French film critic who is a member of IFFI jury, is also the Artistic Director of the Locarno Film Festival. In his second capacity, he brings welcome news to Indian film buffs and budding scriptwriters. Locarno co-production lab ‘Open Doors’ will focus on India in the 64th edition of the festival, to be held during August 3-13, 2011. The Open Doors segment is supported by the Swiss foreign ministry...

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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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