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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. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



Bambai Meri Jaan, Trailer release: Kay Kay is on a role


Bambai Meri Jaan, Trailer release: Kay Kay is on a role

In the crime thriller Bambai Meri Jaan, Kay Kay Menon plays the key role of Ismail Kadri, an honest cop. Just the other day, I was chatting with a fellow journalist and we both agreed that Kay Kay’s portrayal of a victimised badminton coach in the very recent sleeper film, Love All, salvaged his reputation of playing hardened cops or intelligence officers, as a norm. He did a pretty good job, and Love All led us to believe that we might see more of the non-cop Kay Kay. And then, here comes Bambai Meri Jaan.

With a title like that, the Amazon Prime Video web series produced by Excel Media and Entertainment, could be a love story or a slum tale. But it is neither. It is about crime in the city, during the 60s, 70s and 80s, crime that grew from petty misdemeanors to organised crime. And there is one family that is involved on either side of the law, the Kadris. The north and the south in this compass, are assigned to the Don of Dons, Dara Ismail Kadri (Avinash), and Inspector Ismail Kadri (Kay Kay). When asked about his penchant for policeman roles, Kay Kay repeated what he has often said, “I play people. I do not play roles. Each person I play is different from the other.” Also in the cast are Avinash Tiwary, Kritika Kamra, Nivedita Bhattacharya (Mrs. Kay Menon) and Amyra Dastur, in pivotal roles. They were all present on the occasion of the trailer launch at the Taj Land’s End ballroom, Monday afternoon.

Sachin Kumbhar does his homework so well that it is a delight to watch him compère events. However, he too is guilty, like all other compères, of eulogising the personalities, their work and their company to glory. But that comes with the job, I guess. The proceedings kicked off with Nivedita rendering the title track live, though the super extra base in the sound made it difficult to grasp the lyrics. Interaction with the glitterati was in three sessions, with as many as 15-16 of them gracing the stage. The actors, tongue firmly in cheek, kept saying that everybody on the sets was out to impress Kay Kay, who is the senior-most actor in the 10-part series, by far. Nivedita confessed that she did not need to impress her husband, but that his presence must have inspired her to act better.

“Jab eemaandaaree bhook sey takraatee hae, to hamesha haartee hae. Maen eemaandaar tha, par Dara bhooka tha.” (When honesty clashes with hunger, it always loses. I was honest, but Dara was hungry). These lines are part of the dialogue, spoken by Kay Kay. Talking about his role, Menon said, “My character, Ismail Kadri, is multi-layered and complex. He is an honest cop and a doting father, who isn’t perfect. On one hand, he is deeply committed to cleansing the city of Bambai (as it was known then among the hoi polloi) of all crime, while, on the other, to save his family, he is forced to become a pawn in the city’s crime syndicate. Even as Ismail fights against all odds not to give in to the evil surrounding him, he sees his own flesh and blood rising as the city’s new gang lord. Shujaat Saudagar (director and co-creator; director of Rock On 2 and The Underbug) and Rensil (co-creator; writer-director of Kurbaan, Ungli, 24 and Dial 100)’s vision for this character was so clear and precise that it was easy for me to essay this role. Thank you, Prime Video and Excel Entertainment, Rensil and Shujaat, for making me a part of such a gut-wrenching story.” Ismail sees his son choose the path of crime to overcome a life of poverty and struggle. The trailer gives the viewers a glimpse of the pain a father undergoes, as he sees his family being torn apart by lost ethos, greed, and corruption. It also features gang-lords in a fight for territory, in the mean streets of the fictionalised 1970s’ Bombay.

Avinash Tiwary said, “When I first read the script and about my character, Dara Kadri, I was awestruck and hesitant at the same time. The character I play in Bambai Meri Jaan is something that very few actors get an opportunity to sink their teeth into, this early in their career. The way I saw it, there are villains and then there is Dara, a dynamic young man who believes that honest hard work won’t get you money and power. From nothing (hunger) to something (provider for the family and his people) to everything (power), ‘bhook’ is an integral part of his journey. To become someone everyone bows down to, one who is feared and revered in equal measures, he has to turn into a cold-blooded monster. As a director, Shujaat’s creativity, attention to detail, and his ability to inspire and motivate each one of us to give our best, really enabled me to bring Dara’s character to life.”

Bambai Meri Jaan will stream in India, and across 240 countries and territories worldwide, starting 14 September. In India, it will be dubbed in four languages, besides English. Add to that French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese, Polish, Latin Spanish, Castilian Spanish, Arabic and Turkish. The series will also be available with subtitles in a number of foreign languages, including Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Filipino, Finnish, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Indonesian, Korean, Malay, Norwegian Bokm, Romanian, Russian, Swedish, Thai, Ukranian and Vietnamese.

Who else to pen a Bambai underworld tale then S. Hussain Zaidi? A former investigative journalist with the Times of India, Zaidi (now 55) was written some 14 books. Films and series that have used his material either wholly or in part include Black Friday, Shootout at Wadala, Phantom, Class of '83, London Confidential: The Chinese Conspiracy, Lahore Confidential, Dongri to Dubai, Gangubai Kathiawadi, Mumbai Mafia: Police vs The Underworld and Scoop. It was announced that he was present, but was not invited on to the stage. Would have been nice to hear it from the “horse’s mouth’. I have lived through the Bombay of the period the story is set in, and would compare some notes. Believe it or not, I was once caught in the middle of a gang-war, and barely managed to escape with my life.

Not seen very often on the big screen in recent years, barring the occasional appearance in Vodka Diaries and Phamous, 2023 could provide a fillip to Kay Kay's career. At 55 going on 56 he is neither too young nor too old. After Love All, if Bambai Meri Jaan hits the city's skyscrapers, he could be on a roll. Or, rather, a role. Even better: several roles.



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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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