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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 Goa 2015, Festival Diary, III

IFFI Goa 2015, Festival Diary, III

Diary pages have got juggled, inadvertently, so, though numbered III, this page should have been IV. Please excuse the oversight and treat this as IV. Although posted earlier, IV is actually III.

Austerity is the name of the game, mismanagement is the characteristic and continuing hostility towards media, and, in some cases, delegates too, are factors that dominate IFFI Goa 2015. A circus called the Film Bazaar, organised by the National Film Development Corporation, in association with the India Tourism Development Corporation, continues to try and exploit the main event, in a crass, buying of favours manner, while the three bodies that really run the festival: Directorate of Film Festivals, Entertainment Society of Goa and Press information Bureau—seem to have learnt nothing from decades of holding IFFI. But I’ll save all that for another day. Here is a look at the five films I managed to catch on the first day.

*The Man Who Knew Infinity: UK: Director Matthew Brown

Little-known British director Brown spent 10 years on this project, a bio-pic based oin a book about mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel), focussing on his years at Trinity College, Cambridge, in the company of prodigies like Bertrand Russell and under the tutelage of G.H Hardy (Jeremy Irons). Cast includes Dhritiman Chatterji (Bengal) and Swati Bhise (Goa). All Indians play Madrasis, never mind their real roots. Brown talks liberties with age as well, by casting Jeremy Irons. Coming from the man who made the Ian Fleming bio-pic, this is good stuff. Dev Patel, always challenged for a range of expressions, digs out a few hitherto unseen ones, Irons is competent, as usual, and the film takes ***.

*Mina Walking: Afghanistan/Canada: Yosef Baraki

Mina is walking tall at IFFI. Made in extremely difficult circumstances by an Afghan who grew up in Canada, the film scores remarkably high on performances, especially Farzana Nawabi as the 12 year-old lead actress.  The film does what acclaimed Indian Kabir Khan has been doing earlier in his ancestral Afghanistan—break stereo-types about life in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Your heart will surely go out to brave-heart Mina, whose mother is killed by the Taliban, father a junkie and homosexual and grand-father senile. Yes, the constantly jerky hand-held camera, the single camera shots and the natural light shooting make it a bit tough on the eyes and neck. Rise above these distractions and you have a ****1/2 film.

*Enclave: Serbia/Montenegro/German: Goran Radovanovic

Some two decades after a superficial sense of normalcy returned to the Balkans, the latent tensions in the region are still simmering--being a Christian or a Muslim still matters, in the most unexpected ways. Using religion (an old, dying Christian, a mobile priest, a huge church bell) and a tank (used as transport vehicle for hidden occupants), Radovanovic continues in the tradition of No Man’s Land, minus the sarcasm, satire and live action of the latter.  Like Mina of Afghanistan, 10 year-old Nenad faces huge challenges, including his friendship with Muslim boys across the border, when the tinder-box could spread flames of ethnic hatred, and even death. The climax is particularly imaginative. ***1/2

*Argentina (Zonda Folclore Argentino): Argentina/France/Spain: Carlos Saura

A documentary on the folk singing traditions of Argentina, in true Saura style, the film is a visual treat and aural mosaic. Some of the melodies keep you engaged. But unless you are a die-hard fan of anything Saura, the operatic treatment, minus any narrative, could lead you to forty winks. One cannot deny the master the basic courtesy of a **1/2 rating, though.

*Bajrangi Bhaijaan: India: Kabir Khan


Well, critics don’t necessarily see all films, whether big or small, at previews or in cinema halls. Sometimes, they have to wait till film festivals. Having attended Kabir Khan’s session at 17th Jio-MAMI MFF, and having had a chat with him at the IFFI inaugural dinner, I felt I just had to catch BB. I had not enjoyed his Ek Tha Tiger very much, and Phantom seemed, largely, an inspired genre, albeit slickly done. Its reputation preceded BB, but that did not come in the way of enjoying the box-office dynamite, which is also a very good film, though the two premises are not seen to co-exist too often. Salman acts way above expectations, Harshaali Malhotra is a natural, Kareena never ceases to surprise and Nawazuddin is brought in well into the second half, to give a further boost to the goings on. He is immensely gifted, but this is not one of his best outings.  Had it not been for a few clichés, the film would have been a much bigger milestone than it is. ***1/2

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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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