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Once upon a time hollywood press conf.

The Joker Coming October.

Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for 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. 



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...

Review of the film Noah

Noah Whenever a film is attempted on a religious/mythological/historical premise, there are bound to be objections to its content, or form, or both. Even fiction and biographical movies face this hostility, and have learnt to live with it. Orthodox believers might find it difficult to watch Noah objectively and avoid comparison to the holy text. Liberals and other film-buffs are more likely to detach themselves (or not to attach themselves in the first place) from the words of the Book, and r...

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

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!

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

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

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...


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

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

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

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

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...


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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 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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