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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. 



फेmous, Review: Nothing famous infamous

फेmous, Review: Nothing famous infamous

Some fellow critics, when emerging from the screening of a film that tests your patience and insults your intelligence, often mutter quite audibly, “Why do they make such films?” The context, quite obviously, is not existentialist, as codified by Jean Paul Sartre and other European scholars in the 1930s and 40s. Rather, it is angst that is vented out at being taken for a royal ride. A few of those who have seen such films do not review them at all, for reasons perfectly understandable, and I understand their logic. But I owe it to my readers to review the film, and call it names, if it so deserves. So this is about a film called Famous, which is a highly ambitious title, so ambitious that an antonym comes immediately to mind.

Famous is spelt stylistically with the Hindi/Devanagari फे replacing the English Fa. Ironically, among the first things that will elude Famous is fame. The film does nothing to achieve any kind of landmark, except for some interesting dialogue, which goes abegging because of the situation it is written for. A poster describes the film as “Attitude of Chambal {in North India}, a gun in hand and the power that flows from the barrel of the gun {Mao Tse-Tung, no less} makes a man.” Chambal is the heart of dacoit infested territory in India, but it no longer sends tremors down the spines of the itinerant traveller or the unscrupulous  moneybags.

Shambhu Singh is the narrator and the actor who dominates the first few scenes. It has to be revealed here that Shambhu Singh is played by Jackie Shroff. As dacoits led Kadak Singh attack a marriage in Shambhu’s family, double barrel guns go off like the celebratory fire-crackers. Nothing is heard of Shambhu for the next 90 minutes, till he returns from hibernation at an unspecified spot and digs the mud to extricate his gun, hidden there and still there. As he pulls out the gun, he sees a human hand, that of Radhe Shyam, who was severely beaten up and thrown there to die. Shambhu now has an ally.

Radhe Shyam had a crush on a teacher called Rosy {haven’t we had enough of school-teachers being named Rosy?}. She was murdered after being raped, by the local legislator, Ram Vijay Tripathi, in cahoots with Kadak Singh. The rapacious Ram Singh does not spare Lalli either, Lalli being Radhe Shyam’s wife, coming from a high caste family. Kadak Singh is the mafia face of Ram, who settles everything with his political connections. When Ram becomes a member of parliament, his brother takes the local legislator’s seat. The three-some revel in taking huge bribes to get tenders passed, and pick-up whichever woman they fancy.

A student of a famous film school and later assistant to director Tigmanshu Dhulia, Karan Lalit Butani has written story, while writer Puneet Sharma, a lyricist and dialogue writer {Boichek, Crazy Cukkad, Bull BulBul Bandook}joins him in the screenplay and dialogue duties. Except for a long scene wherein a father and son bring a Turkey made pistol and discuss the project that needs the blessings of the Tripathi-Singh duo in return for a huge bribr, there is a singular lack of imagination in the writing. I have mentioned above that dialogue could have been more efficacious had it not been so blatantly claptrap.

Debutant Karan Lalit Butani has worked with Jimmy Shergill as an assistant director in films like Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster (both parts) and Bullet Raja, so he owed it to Shergill. Well, cast as a nerdish lad who pouts loud threats when he cannot even hold a gun, he sure is not the Jimmy Shergill we know. Different, yes, but to what end? We may not be able to dispute that dacoit dramas have some almost unavoidable tropes. But instead of learning from the scoring plot points, Butani brings in corruption and high-end politics, perhaps in an attempt to be original. I am offering a list of dacoit films here that a sizeable chunk of critics would name as defining cinema. The list is by no means exhaustive, but that is not what we are talking about:

Ganga Jamuna, Mother India, Jis Desh Men Ganga Behti Hai, Mujhe Jeene Do, Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jayee, Mera Gaon Mera Desh, Sholay, Chambal Ki Qasam, Bandit Queen and Paan Singh Tomar. That’s 10. Without replicating in toto, there is so much we can learn from these classics. Yet the truth is that technically, and even in such crucial departments like camera and focus, Famous is guilty.

Kay Kay Menon {Sarkar, Haider, Baby} has said somewhere that it was his ambition to work in Chambal, the ravines made notoriously famous by legendary dacoits like Phoolan Devi, Paan Singh Tomar, Maan Singh and Nirbhay Singh Gujjar. Problem is that Kay Kay is usually and hopelessly type-cast as law-enforcer or a criminal, with a sharp, acerbic tongue. That is what he does here. Pankaj Tripathi {Nil Batte Sannata, Newton, Masaan} as Ramvijay Tripathi is cool, deranged and sinister, yet nowhere near his best. Shriya Saran {Midnight’s Children, Drishyam} is so easy on the eyes that you feel the poor girl deserved better. Mahie Gill {Rimpy Kaur Gill} {Dev. D, Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster, Paan Singh Tomar}, now 43, is cast as Rosy. Showing grit and gumption, in a liberal mould, has to go the way all attractive women go in this story. Jameel Khan passes muster.

Is there anything famous in Famous?

Ok. You got it.

Rating * ½     



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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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