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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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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...

Samrat & Co., Review

  Samrat & Co. A distribution company that moved to production in the early 60s, Rajshri is an Indian banner known for socially relevant cinema. Over the last 20 years, after founder Tarachand Barjatya passed away and grandson Sooraj emerged as a director, the emphasis has been on grand love stories and sacrificial family drama, all firmly entrenched in the milieu of the rich and famous of the present era. Most of them have worked. One, Hum Aapke Hain Koun (directed by Sooraj), is r...

Remembering Gabriel Jose Garcia Marquez

   Quotes It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there's not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination."                   From The Paris Review Interviews, Gabriel García Márquez, The Art of Fiction No. 69 A...

Transcendence, Review

Transcendence Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), a scientist and leading researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence. He is working to create a machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known, with the full range of human emotions.  His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists, belonging to a secret society named RIFT, who will do whatever it takes to stop him. RIFT beli...

Son of God reviewed

Son of God Making a television series or a feature film on a holy book or a historical figure comes with not one but many occupational hazards, like: *Do you picturise every bit in the text, in order to give a complete picture? Or do you exercise editorial discretion, at the cost of committing the sin of omission? *Do you take everything literally, interpreting the facts to the best of your ability? Or do you go for interpretations and the use of explanatory dialogue/silence, as the narrati...

Indian lyricist-writer-director Gulzar bags DadaSaheb Phalke award

Gulzar chosen for DadaSaheb Phalke Award, India’s biggest recognition of film personalities’ lifetime contribution to Indian cinema The Man who Defeated the Sun and Stole the Moon Sampooran Singh Kalra, born on 18 August 1936, in Dina (now in Pakistan), is better known by his nom de plume, Gulzar (garden).  Dina is located in the northern part of Jhelum District, approximately16 km north of Jhelum City, with a population of under 50,000. In the 40s, the Kalra family fi...

Mickey Rooney: "And that's the way I've always lived"

       Mickey Rooney: "And that's the way I have always lived” Joe Yule Jr., better known as Mickey Rooney, star of all-time hits like wartime satire, The Human Comedy (1943) and National Velvet (1944, with Elizabeth Taylor, about a horse), would have turned 94 on 23 September 2014. But he bid us his last good-bye on 06 April 2014. In 2003, Rooney began their association with Rainbow Puppet Productions, providing his voices to the 100th Anniversary pro...

Divergent, Review

Divergent, Review Divergent is set in a world that has been reduced to a city, Chicago, due a conflict that destroyed the rest of the planet. There has been peace for the last 100 years, an achievement mainly attributed to the principle of dividing people factions, based on human virtues: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (kindness), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), and Erudite (intelligence). Anyone who does not conform to one of these five is banished to the city outskirts, as "fa...

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Review

Captain America: The Winter Soldier 3D IMAX Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, and following on from The Avengers. It is the ninth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Two years after the Battle of New York, Steve Rogers/Captain America is taken by Natasha Romanoff on a mission-- to rescue the hostages of a hijacked S.H.I.E.L.D ship. But there are two parallel secret agendas behind this apparently purposeless crime that will reveal sho...

Divergent, PREVIEW

Divergent, Preview Divergent is an action-adventure film set in a not-too-distant world where people are divided into distinct factions, based on human virtues: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (kindness), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), and Erudite (intelligence). Anyone who does not conform is banished to the city outskirts, as "factionless." A person who values all five virtues equally, and who has the ability to do so, is known as "Divergent." Beatrice ‘Tr...

O Teri, Review of the Indian Hindi film

O Teri In all fairness, the title should have been a giveaway, and one should be prepared for crass, senseless, tasteless fare. If you weren’t, you are yourself to blame. ‘O teri ....’ is a phrase that, when usually completed, means an obscenity in the Punjabi language, which is a lot in use in the Mumbai film industry. So, if you want to be merely suggestive, without going the whole hog, you just say, ‘O teri!’ leaving the rest to fertile imaginations. Salman K...

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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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