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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. 



IFFI 50: Homage to 13 Indian film personalities

IFFI 50: Homage to 13 Indian film personalities

Under its Homage Section, IFFI 2019 screened films of actors, directors, writers, music composers, cinematographers, action directors and other prominent film personalities who are no longer with us. The films shown under this section were:

AGNISAAN (1985) honoring late Biju Phukan

Biju Phukan was an actor from Assam who appeared in more than 80 Assamese feature films. His debut film was ‘Dr. Bezbarua’ (1970). Though his first leading role was in ‘Baruar Songshar’ (1970), it was his portrayal of the protagonist in ‘Aranya’ (1971) which established him as an onscreen hero. The film also won a National Film Awards for Best Regional Film. He was a former jury member of Indian Panorama. He was born in Dibrugarh and studied in the city’s Kanoi College. One of the songs from his film ‘Bowari’ (1982), ‘Mon Hira Doi’ became popular earning him fame.

The movie talks about a wealthy businessman of a village who opts for a second marriage. His decision causes shock and anger to his first wife and his son from her. Having loved him unconditionally, the wife now feels cheated and decides to take revenge.

ARUNACHALAM (1997) honoring late Crazy Mohan (Mohan Rangachari)

Mohan Rangachari, better known as Crazy Mohan, was a playwright, dialogue writer, and an actor. He wrote over 30 plays, 100 short stories, and worked on over 40 films, which, interestingly, had a cameo of his. An engineer by training, Mohan wrote plays in college and formed his drama troupe ‘Crazy Creations’ in 1979. He established himself as a dialogue writer with K. Balachander’s ‘Poikkal Kuthirai’ (1983). Some of his popular films include ‘Sathi Leelavathi’ (1995), ‘Kaathala Kaathala’ (1998), ‘Michael Madana Kamarajan’ (1990), ‘Apoorva Sagodharargal’ (1989), ‘Indian’ (1995), ‘Avvai Shanmugi’ (1996), ‘Thenali’ (2000),‘Panchathanthiram’ (2002) and ‘Vasool Raja MBBS’ (2004), ‘Kola Kolaya Mundhirika’ (2009), ‘Eega’ (2012), etc.

The movie talks about an orphan, who discovers that he is the son of a dead multi-millionaire. To inherit this wealth, he has to fulfill his father’s condition – spend 30 crores in 30 days, without gifting or donating it. Arunachalam is not interested in the money but takes up the challenge to safeguard his father’s money from four crooks eyeing it.

KANOORU HEGGADITHI (1999) honouring late Girish Karnad

Girish Karnad was a playwright, author, actor, and film director. His works, written largely in Kannada, explored the present by way of the past. He was awarded the prestigious honors such as Padma Shri (1974), Padma Bhushan (1992), and Jnanpith Award (1999). His important plays include ‘Yayati’ (1961), ‘Tughlaq’ (1964), ‘Hayavadana’ (1971) and ‘Nagamandala’ (1988). He wrote the screenplay and played the lead role in his debut film ‘Samskara’ (1970). His other films included ‘Vamsha Vriksha’ (1971), ‘Tabbaliyu Neenade Magane’ (1977), ‘Ondanondu Kaaladalli’ (1978), ‘Utsav’ (1984), ‘Kanooru Heggadithi’ (1999), ‘Iqbal’ (2005), ‘Life Goes On’ (2009), and ‘24’ (2016), etc.

The movie tells the story of Chandre Gowda’s third wife Subbamma, who is rebellious and encourages sporadic acts of defiance against men from among her women friends. When her husband dies, she uses her position of authority to avenge all the wrongs ever done by men to women. Her actions end up destroying her, and her place is taken by liberal intellectual Hooviah.

HUM (1991) honouring late Kader Khan

Kader Khan was a film actor, comedian, and script and dialogue writer. He acted in over 300 films in Hindi and Urdu and wrote dialogue for over 250 Indian films. He was introduced as an actor in films by Dilip Kumar who was impressed by his acting in a college play. Khan started as a script/dialogue writer with films like ‘Jawani Diwaani’, ‘Daag’, and ‘Roti’, and went on to do several films including those for Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan. He also attained great fame as a comedian. Major filmmakers of southern cinema consulted Khan for Hindi remakes of their films. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 2019.

The movie is about how a wealthy and cruel businessman and lord over a dockyard are making slaves out of all the workers and three brothers with a troubled past decide to fight against his injustice.

UMRAO JAAN (1981) honoring Mohammed Zahur Hashmi ‘Khayyam’

Mohammed Zahur ‘Khayyam’ Hashmi, popularly known as the Khayyam, was a music director of many popular films like ‘Umrao Jaan’, ‘Kabhi Kabhie’, ‘Razia Sultan’, ‘Trishul’, etc. He made his debut as ‘Sharmaji’ of the Sharmaji-Varmaji composer duo of ‘Heer Ranjha’ (1948). After a few successful compositions in films, it was his songs ‘Shola Aur Shabnam’ (1961) which established him as a great composer. In his four-decade career, he won many accolades including a National Film Awards for Best Music Direction for ‘Umrao Jaan’; a Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for Creative Music in 2007; and three Filmfare Awards. He was awarded Padma Bhushan in 2011.

The film tells the story of Amrian, who is sold to a brothel, later turns into a renowned courtesan Umrao Jaan, and how Nawab Sultan falls in love with her, but is unable to marry her.

VEYIL MARANGAL (2019) honouring late M.J. Radhakrishnan

M.J. Radhakrishnan was an award-winning cinematographer in the Malayalam film industry. He won Kerala State Award for Best Cinematography as many as seven times. He also won the National Film Award for Best Cinematography in 2019 for ‘Olu’. Earlier, he worked as a still photographer and then as an associate to DOP-turned-director Shaji N. Karun. His debut film as a DOP was ‘Maamalakalkkapurathu’ in 1988. He went on to work on over 75 feature films, including ‘Deshadanam’ (1996), ‘Karunam’ (1999) and ‘Naalu Pennungal’ (2007), and several documentaries in over the next two decades. He won Caméra d’Or (Golden Camera Award) for ‘Marana Simhasanam’ (1999) at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival. ‘Netaji’ (2019) was his final cinematic work.

The film tells the story of marginalised people in Kerala through the life of a father who worked as a temporary cleaner, and his eight-year-old son.

BHUVAN SHOME (1969) honouring late Mrinal Sen

Mrinal Sen was one of the Indian film-makers in the New Wave cinema in India. Sen worked as a journalist, a medicine salesman, and a film sound technician before his association with the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) got him interested in film-making. He made his debut with ‘Raat Bhore’ in 1956, followed by award-winning films like Punascha, Akash Kusum, Calcutta 71, Chorus; Mrigayaa, Ek Din Pratidin, Akaler Sandhane, Khandhar, and Antareen. He achieved national status with ‘Bhuvan Shome’ (1969), while his ‘Kharij’ (1982) won the Jury Prize at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival. He won the National Film Awards as many as 18 times, besides winning Padma Bhushan in 2008 and Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2005.

Bhuvan Shome is about the titular character, a lonely widower and a strict disciplinarian, who seeks escape in a holiday in Gujarat, which hurls him into a new world that consists of simple, uninitiated village folks, a bullock-cart driver, and Gouri .

DINABANDHOO (2004) honouring late Munin Barua

Munin Barua was a film director in the Assamese cinema. In 2000, his film ‘Hiya Diya Niya’ became a first ‘blockbuster hit’ in Assam and helped revive the Assamese film industry. He started his career as a scriptwriter and assistant director in the mid-70s. He made his directorial debut, with Nipon Goswami, with ‘Pratima’ (1987). He wrote scripts for 21 films, including ‘Bowari’, ‘Ghar-Sansar’, ‘Sonmoina’, ‘Mon-Mandir’, ‘Sewali’, ‘Daag’, ‘Barood’, ‘Rong’, ‘Maya’, ‘Bidhata’, etc. His ‘Dinabandhoo’ won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Assamese in 2005. Barua also directed television serials like ‘Papu Nikur Xongbad’ and ‘Rudra’.

Dinabandhoo spends lavishly at his wedding and when his wife falls sick, he is unable to afford a better treatment, and she passes away. For his elder daughter’s wedding, he once again goes beyond his capacity. But unable to do the same for his second daughter, he indirectly suggests to her to elope with her fiancé.

NADIYA KE PAAR (1982) honouring late Raj Kumar Barjatya

Raj Kumar Barjatya was a film producer associated with super hit films like ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ (1989) and ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun…!’ (1994), both directed by his son, Sooraj Barjatya. He was the son of Tarachand Barjatya, founder of Rajshri Productions. His other popular films as producer include ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’ (1999), ‘Hum Pyar Tumhi Se Kar Baithe’ (2002), ‘Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon’ (2003),

‘Vivah’ (2006), ‘Ek Vivaah… Aisa Bhi’ (2008), ‘Isi Life Mein…!’ (2010), ‘Jaana Pehchana’ (2011), ‘Love U…Mr. Kalakaar!’ (2011), ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo’ (2015) and ‘Hum Chaar’ (2019).

Nadiya ke Paar is a film set in the 80’s, about how Chandan and Gunja, who hail from villages across the river, fall in love with each other. After her sister dies, Gunja is compelled to marry her brother-in-law, who is Chandan’s brother.

GANASHATRU (1989) honouring late Ruma Guha Thakurta

Ruma Guha Thakurta was an actress and singer primarily associated with Bengali and Hindi films. She worked in over 60 films many of which made by directors like Satyajit Ray (also her uncle), Tapan Sinha, Tarun Majumdar, Rajen Tarafdar, Aparna Sen and Mira Nair. She work in films like ‘Ganga’ (1959), ‘Abhijaan’ (1962), ‘Palatak’ (1963), ‘Antony Firingee’ (1967), ‘80 Te Asio Na’ (1967), ‘Balika Badhu’ (1967), ‘Dadar Kirti’ (1980), ‘36 Chowringhee Lane’ (1981), ‘Amrita Kumbher Sandhane’ (1982), ‘Bhalobasa Bhalobasa’ (1985) and ‘Wheelchair’ (1994).

She acted in several Hindi films like ‘Jowar Bhata’ (1944), her first film, ‘Mashaal’ (1950), ‘Afsar’ (1950), ‘Raag Rang’ (1952) and ‘Namesake’ (2006).

Ganashatru, adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s play ‘An Enemy of the People’,  is about an idealistic physician, Ashoke Gupta, who discovers that the holy water of the Tripureshwar temple, a famous temple and tourist attraction of the town, is dangerously contaminated.

AGENT VINOD (1977) honouring late Veeru Devgan

Veeru Devgan was a stuntman, action choreographer and film director in Bollywood. He began his career in 1974, with the film ‘Roti, Kapda Aur Makaan’. From there, he went on to choreograph fight and action scenes for over 80 Hindi films, including ‘Mr. Natwarlal’ (1979), ‘Phool Aur Kaante’ (1991), ‘Jigar’ (1992), ‘Dil Kya Kare’ (1979), etc. He also acted in the 1981 film ‘Kranti’ in a small role. He ventured into direction with the 1999 film ‘Hindustan Ki Kasam’, which starred his son Ajay Devgn, Amitabh Bachchan, Manisha Koirala and Sushmita Sen.

Agent Vinod is a movie about the kidnapping of a prominent scientist, Ajay Saxena, which prompts the Chief of Secret Services to assign flamboyant Agent Vinod to this case.

RAJNIGANDHA (1974) honouring late Vidya Sinha

Vidya Sinha was a Hindi film actress known for movies like ‘Chhoti Si Baat’ (1975), ‘Pati, Patni Aur Woh’ (1978), etc. She started her career as a model and won the Miss Bombay title. Her first film was ‘Raja Kaka’ (1974), but fame came to her through the low-budget break-away hit ‘‘Rajnigandha’ (1974), directed by her mentor Basu Chatterjee. She acted in about 30 movies including ‘Karm’ (1977), ‘Mukti’ (1977), ‘Inkaar’ (1977), ‘Kitaab’ (1977), ‘Meera’ (1979), ‘Josh’ (1981), and ‘Love Story’ (1981). In the later part of her life, she acted in TV serials and Salman Khan movie ‘Bodyguard’ (2011).

Rajnigandha is about Deepa who falls in love with a college friend Sanjay, and agrees to marry him but then unexpectedly meets Navin, a former lover, who is the antithesis of Sanjay. His company rekindles Deepa’s feelings for him, and she is now torn between the two men and between her past and her present.

THE TIDAL BORE (1973) and EK ANEK AUR EKTA (1974) honouring Vijaya Mulay

Vijaya Mulay was a documentary film-maker, film historian, writer, educationist, and researcher. Her close friendships with film-makers Satyajit Ray and Louis Malle gave her a unique perspective into cinema. They helped with her first documentary ‘The Tidal Bore’ (1973), which was India’s official entry to the Mannheim Film Festival. Her animation film ‘Ek Anek Aur Ekta’ (1974), which won the National Film Award for Best Educational Film, was immensely popular. She worked with the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) and headed the Center for Educational Technology which prepared educational films. National Award-winning actor Suhasini Mulay, who played the female lead in Bhuvan Shome, is her daughter.

The Tidal Bore (1973)

The Tidal Bore is about a giant swell of water – about 15-feet tidal bore – coming from the Bay of Bengal like a wall of water on the Hooghly River. She was helped by film-makers Satyajit Ray and Louis Malle – while Malle sent negative stock from France, Ray voiced the commentary.

Ek Anek Aur Ekta (1974)

The traditionally animated short film begins with a group of children playing in a garden. One of them asks their elder sister about the meaning of ‘Anek’ (Many). She replies, using a metaphorical story of how a group of birds escapes a bird catcher by uniting. The film is best remembered for its title song Ek Chidiya, Anek Chidiyan.

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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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