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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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PLANES: Fire and Rescue, Review

PLANES: Fire and Rescue/PLANES2 Dozens of talking, humanoid, attractive planes+hundreds of talking, humanoid vehicles of all cute shapes and sizes+lush landscapes+recurrent forest fires+zero human beings. That is the cast and locale of PLANES: Fire and Rescue, a Disneytoon production, directed by Bobs Gannaway, sequel to the 2013 PLANES, directed by Klay Hall. It is a 3D animated comedy, with morals galore and a handicapped hero who comes of age in the climax. You might recall the earlier ou...

Begin Again, Review

Begin Again Almost all the characters in Begin Again are losers, and in the end…sublime love prevails…no spoilers here! The film has an Adults Only rating in India, which seems a bit harsh. Some mutes, some beeps, a couple of more snips (a couple are noticed as jerks on screen) and it should have managed a UA (persons below 18 allowed if accompanied by adults). The latest film from Irish writer-director John Carney (Once), Begin Again is a musical (as  about the music rec...

CommunicAsia-BroadcastAsia 2014 was a block-buster, V

CommunicAsia-BroadcastAsia diary, Singapore, June 2014 --A revisit 12 years later, to a block-buster event V: 4k resolutions up to 1,000 fps, HD up to 3,000 fps Prime Focus was the first familiar Indian name that I noticed at the Communicasia-BroadcastAsia twin events, while the first Singaporean Indian booth I stopped at was t-eight. Two persons were busy demonstrating the merits of ‘slowing down your world’. In film parlance, that means using high speed cameras that, when...

CommunicAsia-BroadcastAsia 2014 was a block-buster, IV

CommunicAsia diary, Singapore, June 2014 --A revisit 12 years later, to a block-buster event IV: HD going, UHD coming Intelsat to spread 4K UHD 60 fps broadcasts One of the events I could not attend at CommunicAsia 2014 was: Intelsat, BT, Ericsson, Newtec and Sony cordially invite you to a 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) discussion and transmission of a live event via satellite at CommunicAsia 2014.   Date:         Tuesday, 17 June 2014 Time:&n...

CommunicAsia-BroadcastAsia 2014 was a block-buster, III

CommunicAsia diary, Singapore, June 2014--A revisit 12 years later, to a block-buster event III: 58,500 sq metres, Names and numbers Incorporating CommunicAsia, BroadcastAsia, EnterpriseIT, SatComm, MobileCommAsia, NetworkAsia, ProfessionalAudioTechnology 2014 and the imbX Ministerial Forum on ICT, the magna event brought together business leaders, companies and industry professionals to showcase their latest innovations, network, exchange ideas and tap new markets. It was arranged on five l...

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Review

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Apes more human than homo sapiens, humans decimated by a simian flu, their two kingdoms separated by a boundary bridge in the USA, clichés that crossover from human story-telling to the world of our evolving Darwinian predecessors, role reversals on captivity and clinical trials, and the end of this eighth instalment laying the ground for the ninth movie in the 46-year-old science fiction franchise, based on a French novel, by Pierre Boulle—that&rsq...

Daawat-e-Ishq, First look

Invitation to a first look Saturday evening, four days after my return from Singapore. A call on my mobile phone. Some young woman said she was calling from Spice Bhasha. No, not a restaurant chain nor a spice manufacturer, but the non-English focus public relations firm, Spice PR. Line was unclear, so I requested her to send the details of the event she was inviting me to by SMS. Nothing came till Sunday night. And then I got it. An ‘iftaar’ (meaning breaking of the 16-hour total...

CommunicAsia-BroadcastAsia 2014 was a block-buster, II

'Communicasia diary, Singapore, June 2014--A revisit 12 years later, to a block-buster event II: Changi-Marina Bay-Kallang Who do you blame for choosing a terribly timed flight? AI342 landed at Singapore’s Changi International Airport at about 7.30 am. I had reported at Sahar at 7 pm. No, the distance between Mumbai and Singapore does not take 12 ½ hours to cover (it takes 5), but then this was not a direct flight. Including the stop at Chennai, it took 10 hours. Add to that t...

Review of the film Wadjda

Wadjda A title that reminds us of the great Polish film-maker (Wajda), a subject that revolves around a bicycle (Italian master De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves comes to mind) and a director whose first name is the same as the name of a Middle-eastern city! The name Wadjda is pronounced Wajda or Wajida by most persons who live in the Indian sub-continent. Woman director Haifaa Al-Mansour’s debut feature, the first film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first ever made there by ...

CommunicAsia-BroadcastAsia 2014 was a block-buster, I

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Communicasia diary, Singapore, June 2014--A revisit 12 years later, to a block-buster event I: Prologue Films, television, radio, internet, mobile phones, satellites…Communicasia has a wide ambit. Twelve years ago, I visited the exhibition in its earlier Broadcast Asia avtaar at Singapore’s quite new Expo centre near the Changi airport, while I was based in that country. It was big even then. Attractive staff at the booths led you on to explore the products and technology on offer...

Grace of Monaco, Review

Grace of Monaco Where would you hope to find the Prince of Monaco, the Oscar-winning actress Grace Kelly, Charles de Gaulle, Robert McNamara (former US Defense Secretary), Maria Callas (legendary opera singer), Alfred Hitchcock and Aristotle Onassis (Greek business tycoon) on the same page? In a fictionalised biopic called Grace of Monaco. Perhaps too fictionalised, according to some. Writer Arash Amel (who earlier wrote The Expatriate, 2012), on being accused of taking too many liberties wi...

How to Train Your Dragon: 2, Review

How to Train Your Dragon: 2 “Life here is amazing. Dragons used to be a bit of a problem, but now they've all moved in,” goes the voice-over in the beginning of How to Train Your Dragon: 2. It is a 102-minute sequel to HTTYD 1 (2010), which was directed by Dean Deblois and Chris Sanders, the Lilo & Stitch (2002) duo. Part 2 is directed by Deblois, solo. It's been five years since Hiccup (now 20) and his dragon Toothless successfully united dragons and Vikings on the i...

With You, Without You, Review

With You, Without You SriLankan writer-director Prasanna Vithanage again explores loneliness and helplessness in With You, Without You, a Fyodor Dostoyevsky novella (The Meek One, 1876) adaptation, deftly projected to SriLanka of 136 years later. It is dark, mainly bleak and sad, offers some hope and escape along the way, but veers towards an inevitable ending. Buddhist pawn-broker Sarathsiri leads a dull and purely functional existence, operating a shop on the ground floor and living above ...

The World Before Her, Review

The World Before Her Patient and painstaking are the two words that best describe the efforts of an Indian-Canadian documentary-maker and her Canadian backers in completing and releasing The World Before Her. It started rolling in 2008 and was completed in 2012. The next year, it was released in the US, and now, on 6 June 2104, it hits five Indian cities, on 17 cinema screens, coupled with a travelling campaign to increase awareness of women’s rights and female foeticide/infanticide (th...

Filmistaan, Review

Filmistaan Deserving winner of the Indian government’s National Award for the Best Hindi Feature Film of the Year, 2013, this 2012 production makes it to cinemas in June 2014. It has no stars, no heroine, no item songs, and has been made at an extremely low budget of around Rs. 1.5 crore (Rs. 15 million). Yet, it is among the most outstanding films seen in recent times. It is not to be confused with the production studio of the same name that operated in Mumbai from the early 50s to the...

Maleficent, Review

Maleficent: Wicked witch is a Jolie good fellow! Disney's 1959 classic Sleeping Beauty takes new shape, and is retold, with a longish back-story, in which the vamp comes across as the true heroine. A beautiful, pure-hearted young ‘woman’, Maleficent has an idyllic life, growing up in a peace-loving forest kingdom of quaint animals, birds and varied creatures, until one day, when an invading army from the neighbouring human kingdom of King Henry threatens the harmony of the land...

X-Men: Days of Future Past, Review

X Men: Days of Future Past In 1967, Moody Blues released their second rock album, Days of Future Passed. Changing the last two letters of the last word, two issues of The Uncanny X-Men comic book series from 1980-81, written by Chris Claremont (a consultant on the film version), became Days of Future Past. Incidentally, his comic has seen three adaptations already: X-Men (1992), Wolverine and the X-Men (2008) and The Super Hero Squad Show (2009). The 2014 film is set in two time zones, 50 yea...

Fading Gigolo, Review

Fading Gigolo Fading Gigolo is a misnomer, since the protagonist in this tale only becomes a gigolo several minutes into the film, and never fades away. Though Woody Allen (now 79) shares a generous amount of screen space with John Turturro, the film is written and directed by Turturro, not Allen. It is not often that one sees Allen acting in films directed by others. So, Fading Gigolo falls in the category of What’s New Pussycat?, Casino Royale , Play It Again Sam, The Front, Scenes Fr...

Million Dollar Arm, Review

Million Dollar Arm In the unofficial national game of India, cricket, anybody who can bowl at 90 mph/150 kmph or faster could be described as possessing a golden arm, or a million dollar arm. It emerges after seeing Million Dollar Arm (MDA) that the same applies to baseball, though the ball itself is made differently and the bowling (pitching, to be exact) is done in a different bio-metric action.\ Based on a true story, Million Dollar Arm is an American film about the quest of an American s...

Bob Hoskins: Death of a 'plebeian'

  Bob Hoskins: Death of a ‘plebeian’ A couple of days ago, we read about the demise of Robert ‘Bob’ William Hoskins Jr., at the age of 71. Here is a small tribute to the British actor, who won a Bafta, was Oscar-nominated in 1987 for playing the romantic small-time hood in the crime drama, Mona Lisa (1986), and is fondly remembered for his roles in The Long Good Friday and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? 5’6”, barrel-chested and owner of a plebeian persona, B...

The Amazing Spiderman: 2, REVIEW

The Amazing Spiderman: 2 James Bond villain Goldfinger had a ‘web of sin’, ‘don’t go in’ warned Shirley Bassey. Now,in the days of the Web (Internet), a director called Marc Webb spins a tale with everyday lovers and an orphaned, masked crime-fighter with super-powers--strength, instant healing and darted ropes and webs that enable him to swing across skyscrapers and to wrap/hold his friends and foes. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (aka The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Ri...

Brick Mansions, Review

Brick Mansions How often is a film remade in another language ten years after the original, with the writer of the original writing it this time too, and producing it as well?  There must have been something special in the 2004 French action thriller Banlieue (District) 13, directed by Pierre Morel and written by Luc Besson & Bibi Naceri, to merit such a move. District 13 was credited with helping bring the stunt-like and highly athletic moves of Parkour (physical training style) to th...

Tarzan, Review

Tarzan This 2013 production by German director Reinhard Klooss is a franchise authorised by the estate of the original author, Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950), but rather different from any of the story-lines written by him. Tarzan of the Apes appeared in the October 1912 issue of All-Story magazine. Burroughs received $700 for the tale. The first Tarzan movie appeared in 1918, with Elmo Lincoln in the title role. (Imagine, it will be a hundred years old in 2017)! Eventually Burroughs penned...

Revolver Rani, Review

Revolver Rani One can be pardoned for linking two films with the same name and imagining for a while that the latter might be a remake, especially if both are titled Revolver Rani, even if the new one is released 43 years after the original. Both are bound to have a female in the title role and both would obviously show her blazing away to glory. The earlier film was released in 1971, director K.V.S. Kutumba Rao, B & W and had Vijayalalitha as the Rani. It was dubbed in Hindi from a Telu...

Finding Happiness, Review

Finding Happiness Against a background of economic crisis, climatic catastrophes and the cancer of corruption, journalist Juliet Palmer, of Profiles magazine, is given an unusual assignment, a “..so not me” project that she initially refuses to accept but is coaxed into doing, by her boss at the magazine. It involves visiting a spiritual community in northern California interviewing its visionary founder: Swami Kriyananda and his Ananda World Brotherhood Village. Kriyananda had fo...

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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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