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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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The Great Indian Dysfunctional Family, Web series by ALT Balaji

The Great Indian Dysfunctional Family, Web series by ALT Balaji After an accident during border duty, in which he suffers a foot injury, General Vikramjeet Ranaut settles down for a quiet and happy life with his wife Geeta, mother Premlata and mute son Mridul in his ancestral home in Coonoor. In his spare time, he trains some military cadets. When his estranged brother Samar and sister-in-law Sonali return after 8 years, things spiral out of control. Samar had fled both the home and the army...

Fryday, Review: Thank Devil, It’s Friday

Fryday, Review: Thank Devil, It’s Friday A water-purifier salesman has until Friday to make his first sale, or else face the sack. A ham actor has only the Friday to make his extra-marital catch, since his wife is away for just about a day. The twain meet at the actor’s home, where the married fan of the hero is about to give in to his seductive moves, and then all hell breaks loose. Umpteen Gujarati and English plays in Mumbai have tried and tested the formula, usually with succ...

Helicopter Eela, Review: No copter, too much of Eela

Helicopter Eela, Review: No copter, too much of Eela An intriguing title, the film has nothing to do with helicopters. It is the story of a domineering and stubborn mother who has a fixation about her only son’s welfare and whereabouts. Trouble is he is twentyish and the last thing he needs or likes is being mothered all the time. Designed to showcase the talent of actress Kajol, and co-produced by hubby, actor Ajay Devgn, Helicopter Eela begins on a bright note and then peters down to ...

Tumbbad, Review: Hastaar the Horrible and the Dough Dolls

Tumbbad, Review: Hastaar the Horrible and the Dough Dolls Tumbbad, named after the location where most of the action takes place, is a historical fantasy horror film, directed by debutant Rahi Anil Barve. Anand Gandhi, the director of Ship of Theseus, served as the creative director, co-writer and executive producer, with Adesh Prasad as co-director and co-writer. Tumbbad is jointly produced by lead actor Sohum Shah and Aanand L. Rai, among others. The film took six years to make and is path ...

At 75, IPTA continues its tradition of rewarding drama talent

At 75, IPTA continues its tradition of rewarding drama talent Three milestones were established this year by the Indian Peoples Theatre Association (IPTA): firstly, it turned 75, secondly, 2018 marks the 100th birth anniversary of one of its pillars, the poet Kaifi Azmi, and thirdly, its annual Inter-College Dramatic Competition (ICDC) entered its 47th year, having begun in 1972. The Competition awards the best of talent in Mumbai colleges, for plays in Hindi/Urdu or the symbiotic language, H...

Venom, Review: High-breed Hannibal lecture

Venom, Review: High-breed Hannibal lecture Alien organisms are brought to earth by a mad industrialist who experiments by hosting them in human bodies, to form hybrid beings. These high-breeds feed on living humans, possess immense strength and can take over the human host at will, both in mind and body. What’s more, they can, and do, talk to the hosts in English, most of the conversations being lectures. Alien organisms inspired by Hannibal Lecter, a Hollywood cannibal who has been eat...

9th Jagran Film Festival, Mumbai: The Post, A Star is Born and Maassab make it worth the wake

9th Jagran Film Festival, Mumbai: The Post, A Star is Born and Maassab make it worth the wake Dainik Jagran, which means ‘daily wake’, is a leading Hindi language newspaper of India and the group also owns the popular tabloid, Mid-Day. Its 9th film festival was held across 18 cities and came to Mumbai on the 27th of September, playing through the 30th. Held at four screens of the suburban multiplex called Cinépolis (formerly Fun Republic), it suffered from many technical an...

Ishqeria, Review: Malaria, loveria and ishqeria—this ease or disease?

Ishqeria, Review: Malaria, loveria and ishqeria—this ease or disease? Some films have pleasing visuals, simple dialogue, nice songs, over the top characters and actors mis-matched to their roles. They seem to be a picnic for the makers, but offer little or no entertainment to the viewer. What is worse is that a film like Ishqeria is inordinately delayed, looking dated and jaded on release. Ishqeria is directed by Prerna Wadhawan and written by her, along with Radhika Anand. Perhaps the...

The Equalizer 2, Review: Unequal combat

The Equalizer 2, Review: Unequal combat When you have one man battling four or more mercenaries, the combat is apparently unequal. Turns out that the inequality is in favour of the one man, since he is played by Denzel Washington, the protagonist, who does the requisite equalising. Washington is not the quintessential action hero, though he tries hard to be one. Passable stuff that keeps you mildly excited with its action, and takes pains to make the story move at a reasonable pace, making th...

Manto, Review: Man to man, rediscovering the Urdu writer, who died a pauper, at 42

Manto, Review: Man to man, rediscovering the Urdu writer, who died a pauper, at 42 Before the film, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) displayed categorises the language of the film as Hindi/Urdu. Saadat Hasan Manto wrote short stories and films in Urdu and there is some Hindi in the film, mainly spoken by others. Among the most controversial of Urdu writers, Manto has been the subject of rediscovery over the last decade or so for reasons unknown. Whatever the reasons, Nandita Das...

The House with a Clock in Its Walls, Review: Gothic and scary, with a funny-bone

The House with a Clock in Its Walls, Review: Gothic and scary, with a funny-bone Everybody loves a good mystery. Well, almost everybody. If there is magic in it and prodigious children, they love it even more. The House with a Clock in Its Walls is a magical story about warlocks and witches, children and childish innocence. It has, at its centre, a house that enjoys a position of its own. Hidden inside its walls somewhere is a clock that keeps ticking, and it is no ordinary clock. In fact, it...

III Smoking Barrels-Stories from Far East India, Review: Barrelful of empathy

III Smoking Barrels-Stories from Far East India, Review: Barrelful of empathy Roman three in the title refers to the fact that the film is an anthology of three stories, each exploring a different stage in life--a child involved in armed conflicts, a boy in drug peddling and a man entangled in elephant poaching. All three are set in the North-East of India where insurgency and underground movements thrive, aided in part by the fact that the Indian states of the region share borders with as ma...

Pakhi, Review: Bird watching strictly not recommended

Pakhi, Review: Bird watching strictly not recommended Pakhi, the title, is a variation of the word ‘pankhi’ or ‘panchhi’, meaning bird, in Hindi. It’s a good title, and, in the film, it is the name of the protagonist, who is forced into prostitution and lives the life of a caged bird. Good title. There is also an ‘interesting’ sound track, the kind that is rarely heard in Hindi films these days. Some of the sets and colour schemes are very much like g...

Untying Breastfeeding: Tongue-tied babies? Here comes the solution

Untying Breastfeeding: Tongue-tied babies? Here comes the solution Just as giving birth, pregnancy and menstruation are phenomena that no man can ever experience, so also is breast-feeding. But what appears to be the easiest among the womanly gifts and acts, breast-feeding can be an ordeal, even traumatic, and can drive some women to the brink of suicide. It does sound alarmist and preposterous, but there is reason enough to belief that it is not as easy or natural as it might seem. Untying ...

Human Cinema—The Films of Hrishikesh Mukherjee: Highs and lows in the career of the humane ‘econo-miser’

Human Cinema—The Films of Hrishikesh Mukherjee: Highs and lows in the career of the humane ‘econo-miser’ K.V. Rammesh is a business manager by profession, and his passions are 3M—not the company, rather movies, music and military history. He was also part of a group called Rewind that has chronicled mainly film music in such detail that it is scary to the uninitiated. When he wanted to enroll for my workshop course in Announcing, Broadcasting, Compèring and Dubb...

Mitron, Review: Food-truck’s mixed menu, part tasty, part insipid

Mitron, Review: Food-truck’s mixed menu, part tasty, part insipid Meaning ‘friends’, mitron is among the most favourite opening words when the current prime minister of India addresses an audience. Before becoming the PM, he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat and his mother tongue is Gujarati. Mitron is set in Ahmedabad, the main city in Gujarat, and among its lead players are a gang of three friends. All its characters are Gujaratis, some of who speak the language occasional...

The Predator, Review: Autistic liberty

The Predator, Review: Autistic liberty Fourth instalment in the franchise and third in chronology, The Predator again plays with that one word. Remember Predator (1987), Predator 2 (1990) and Predators (2010)? You could also count the crossover films Alien v/s Predator (2004) and Alien v/s Predator Requiem (2007). They are all Predator vehicles all right, but which one predates which is hard to tell! This one has at its core an autistic child and his sniper father at the core, is gorier than...

Love Sonia, Review: Sister’s sibling search sifting sordid sex surroundings

Love Sonia, Review:  Sister’s sibling search sifting sordid sex surroundings Official statistics show that there hundreds of thousands of sex workers in India, and many of them are below 18. Being a sex worker is not a crime, but soliciting and living of the earnings of sex workers are clear crimes. That does not deter the ‘businessmen’ who run brothels and sex rackets. 270 girls/women go missing every day in India and most land up in the flesh trade. Only 1% of them ma...

Laila Majnu, Review: Crazy lovers in serene Kashmir

Laila Majnu, Review: Crazy lovers in serene Kashmir Transposed from ancient Arabia to modern Kashmir, the tale of doomed lovers Laila and Majnu is retold by brothers Imtiaz Ali and Sajid Ali. Setting it in scenic, serene, Kashmir was probably the only thing that they got right, for in almost all the other departments they have failed to score. Told at a pace that varies from the frenetic to the crawling, the film fails to strike a chord with the audience, a cardinal mistake that seals its fat...

3rd LIFFI: Picturesque mountains, interesting films, small crowds

3rd LIFFI: Picturesque mountains, interesting films, small crowds Lonavla (also spelt Lonavala) is a hill-retreat about halfway from the two biggest cities in Maharashtra, Pune and Mumbai. It takes between two and three hours, depending upon traffic, to get there by road, and almost the same time by train. The latter option avoids the traffic, of course. The 3rd Lonavla International Film Festival of India (LIFFI) is being held in Lonavla, and concludes today, on its third and last day. It i...

Gali Guleiyan (In the Shadows), Review: Shadow boxing in labyrinthe thin

Gali Guleiyan (In the Shadows), Review: Shadow boxing in labyrinthe thin A year after being shown at Busan and the Mumbai International Film Festival, Gali Guleiyan emerges from the shadows and arrives at cinema halls in India. A psycho-supernatural drama, it falters on both levels and offers only confusion as the intelligible narrative. Performances are of a high order, and so are the music score and cinematography, but how one wishes they were put to better use. In the walled city of Old D...

Halkaa, Review: Doing it in the open!

Halkaa, Review: Doing it in the open! Precisely the presumption of the makers of the film. Precisely the bane of filmgoers and film-critics. Furthering the cause of Swachh Bharat (Clean India), a central government campaign to promote, among other things, building of toilets in millions of Indian village homes, the film had to be subtle and extremely well-crafted to work. Sadly, it is neither. That it is made by much decorated director Nila Madhab Panda makes it a bitter pill to swallow. Hal...

Once Again, Review: Loneliness, Lunchbox and Love

Once Again, Review: Loneliness, Lunchbox and Love Films in which the actors speak softly, there are no item songs, no fights and no villains, no double entendre, no ghosts, no claptrap dialogues and no stars, are rare indeed. So, when such a movie arrives on the screens, it is time to applaud once again. Once Again, an Indo-German co-production, has many things going for it, and if only it had a more substantive narrative, it would rate among the best of the year. Having said that, I ask disc...

Stree, Review: Ironing ‘bored’

Stree, Review: Ironing ‘bored’ What do you call a female ghost? For want of a better word, the villagers who are haunted by this entity call it Stree (Hindi for woman). Fair enough. If English film-makers can call a ghost Entity, what is wrong with a Hindi film selecting Stree as its eponymous title? Mind you, this is no ordinary ghost that haunts or possesses the simple village-folk. It kidnaps only men, every year, with precise accuracy, on the same dates, and leaves behind only...

Searching, Review: Top-notch laptop thriller?

Searching, Review: Top-notch laptop thriller? An Asian American plays the main lead in this girl gone missing tale, while the missing daughter is played by Asian American girls at four different ages. That’s not all. Her mother is a former K-Pop star and her uncle is essayed by another Asian, making it probably a first in mainstream American cinema. Searching has the makings of a taut, top-notch thriller, but since it is treated with restraint and a matter-of-fact approach, it remains a...


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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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