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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. 



IFFI Goa 2017, XVIII: 55 years of Bondage

IFFI Goa 2017, XVIII: 55 years of Bondage

A thousand eyebrows were raised at the inclusion of a James Bond package in the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) Goa 2017. This was a first retrospect/tribute dedicated to a fictional character, the British MI6 spy who first appeared on screen in 1962. It was hotly debated whether the idea had any merit, considering retrospectives were hitherto confined to directors and countries.

As many as nine Bond capers were screened, and at the cost of admitting to guilty pleasure, I caught-up on Licence to Kill and Skyfall, two of the only three Bondy films I have missed since I sneaked into Bombay’s New Empire cinema to watch Sean Connery, Ursula Andress and Joseph Wiseman play the roles in Dr. No, characterised by the famous lines, “Bond...James Bond”, “Underneath the mango tree (song, hummed)” and “One million dollars, Mr. Bond.”

I say “sneaked in” because the 1962 production came to India at least a year, probably two, later. That was the norm for American and British movies in the 60s-80s. So the film must have made it to India in 1963 or 1964. Assuming that entry must have been restricted to persons above 18 years in age (not the least for the Venus rising from the water scene of Andress), I would have been 4-5 years younger. Luckily, what I lacked in years, I possessed in inches, and my height got me in.

Still an avid Leslie Charteris and Saint fan, I was disappointed that Roger Moore had not been released from his Simon Templar TV contract and that another actor was playing the lead in Dr. No. Not much was known about Sean Connery, the Scotsman. Andress was Swiss and was working in Italian films. When Dr. No was made, she was 26, and had learnt enough English to survive. Besides, she was a sexpot, and no prima donna. Appearing late in the film, Joseph Wiseman, as the titular villain, caught my fancy. And guess what?  He was a Montreal-born Canadian theatre actor who, very sadly, did very few films. I would have to wait many years for Roger Moore to get his 007 suffix, but, as compensation, Connery was a class act himself.

Only films produced by EON Productions make the cut, and the three Bond sojourns made by non EONs have been kept away. Just for curiosity, here are some details of the ventures not made by Albert (Cubby) R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman or their successors:

Back to IFFI. What is the occasion for the retrospective? 50 years of James Bond! 50? Should that not read 55, considering he came along in 1962 and we are in 2017? And why did IFFI not screen Everything or Nothing, the definitive James Bond documentary, shown at the Mumbai Film Festival in 2012, which was the golden jubilee year of the Bond franchise? A much-needed perspective would been added to the tribute, full of nuggets. Incidentally, when the makers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman found the Dr. No filming costs spiralling, they decided to go for broke, and suitable named their company EON Productions—Everything or Nothing. Three lines from the grapevine are in place here:

§ The 25th Bond film, as yet untitled, will release in about two years from now.

§ Daniel Craig has been offered £120 million to reprise his role.

§ Christopher Nolan has been tipped to direct this silver jubilee outing.

The nay sayers argue that the nine screen slots occupied by Ian Fleming’s indestructible, gadget wielding iconic secret agent could have been put to better use. All the same, what has been done cannot be undone. It could, moreover, become a precedent of sorts. Having recapitulated Double O 7, pegs could be found to hang retrospectives of

·   Tarzan

·   Hercule Poirot

·   Miss Marple

·   Pirates of the Caribbean

·   Superman

·   Batman

·   Star Wars

·   Star Trek

·   Planet of the Apes

·   Pink Panther

·   King Kong

·   Godzilla

·   Harry Potter

·   Halloween

·   Yashraj Films

·   Dharma Productions

·   Rajshri Productions

·   Rahul

·   Vijay/Angry Young Man

·   Prem


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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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