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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. 



Siraj Syed interviews Mumbai-based, under 23, prolific, short film-maker, S. Ashwin

Siraj Syed interviews Mumbai-based, under 23, prolific, short film-maker, S. Ashwin

*You have been prolific in output. How many films have you made since you completed your studies a couple of years ago, and what/who made it possible to make so many?

I have made 29 short films till now. My love for film-making and the conviction I have to keep making them has made it possible for me to have a large number of films to my credit today. Apart from that, my parents have been a great support--they bought me my first DSLR camera, on which I shot my earlier films. My college friends have been an integral part of all my films. It was because of these friends that I could make most of my films, with budgets almost next to nil. I, however, got lucky with my last two films, as they were produced by Kartik Ramaswamy--a dear friend and movie blogger.

*What did you study and what/who were your inspirations?

I did my Bachelor’s in Mass Media (BMM) from SIES College, Mumbai. Right from my child-hood, my inspiration has been ShahRukh Khan. His passion towards his craft has always been inspiring. My mom tells me I wouldn’t eat my porridge, at the age of two, unless I saw SRK on the television. It was since then, I guess, I decided I want to be a part of the film industry. As I grew older, my love for him and films as a whole grew too. I won’t deny that initially I wanted to become an actor, but when I started watching films made by Gautham Vasudev Menon, I was in complete awe of his work. Mr. Menon, as a writer and director, inspired me so much, that I developed an eternal love for the craft of cinema.

*Which are your own three most satisfying films and why?

First one on this list is certainly going to be my 25th short film, Jhonny Boy--not only because it is my silver jubilee short, but it is a very personal film. I made this one in the memory of my grandfather, 6 months after I lost him.

Second one would be Dekhchish Ki Amon Bhabe? It’s the first short film I made in a language that I can’t speak, Bangla (Bengali). The reason behind choosing Bangla for the film is that I wanted to have a sweet language in a thriller film, a contradiction. I feel this film is one of my best works, be it as a director, as a writer, or as a sound designer. Till now, this is my only film to have been a semi-finalist at an international film festival, and to have had a nation-wide telecast.

Happenstance, third on this list, is my first short film as a writer as well. Before this one, I used to only direct scripts written by somebody else. This film won me my first inter-collegiate award, for ‘Best Film’; making me realise that I do a better job as a director when the script is my own.

*Name five-six films that really impressed you, across genres and languages, and what was it about each that hooked you?

OK. Here you are.

1. ‘Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya’ (Tamil) – directed by Gautham Vasudev Menon. Its genre being romance, what hooked me are the wonderful characters and the dialogue of the film. The climax, especially, is indeed unpredictable and lovely.

2. ‘Memento’ (English) – directed by Christopher Nolan. I was amazed after I watched this film, with respect to the mind blowing screenplay it has. Very fine and crisp editing was the cherry on top.

3. ‘Bangalore Days’ (Malayalam) – directed by Anjali Menon. What I love about this slice of life film is the simplicity it has. Every character in the film has a story to tell, and how it is brought together is beautiful.

4. ‘Tamasha’ (Hindi) – directed by Imtiaz Ali. The writing of this film is so honest that it reflects on the output. The human emotions are captured so well. I especially love the graph of how the film progresses. I may sound a little biased here because I relate with the protagonist very much, within my space of suppositions.

5. ‘Whiplash’ (English) – directed by Damien Chazelle. It is one of those few films which actually gave me goose bumps. Each frame is so well directed, I kept saying “wow” throughout. Use of only drums, mostly, for the background score, took the film to an extraordinary level.

6. ‘The Salesman’ (Iranian) – directed by Asghar Farhadi. The plot is indeed gripping. The conflict of the story and its structure is so engrossing that one cannot distinguish on who’s the protagonist and the antagonist of the film.

*Where do you manage to screen your films? Did any of them earn you any returns?

During college, I would screen my films across inter-collegiate festivals. And now, there is a wonderful platform called ‘League of Indie Filmmakers’ that hosts meetings every month at a café in Mumbai. I screen my films during those meetings. Apart from these, I have a YouTube channel of my own – ‘S Ashwin’. I upload my films there. The feed-backs I receive, from wide sets of audiences, are my returns. Positive responses tell me I am on the right track, while the negative ones make me want to work harder the next time.

*Are films made at next to no cost rewarding? Are they even possible? How?

They may or may not be rewarding, but good films are always awarded. There are many short film distributors, these days, who can help such films with monetary returns, like Pocket Films, Humara Movies, Shamiana Shorts, etc. These distributing companies upload films on their YouTube channels, and if they generate revenue on that particular film, they share a fixed percentage of the revenue with the film-maker.

*What are the immediate next projects you are working on?

I am currently working on my most ambitious short film yet. I call it so because I have been writing it with my co-writer, Karthik Kotian, for about 7 months now. Its working title is Vrutti (tendency/nature) and it is going to be in Marathi language. It is a coming of age film, about three teenagers, as a momentary lapse of reasoning changes everything in their lives. The film, scheduled to go on floors any moment now, will be shot in Alibaug. I am also in the process of writing my first feature film.

Directing Susheel Kumar and Shyam Iyer in Kalpana.

Jivitesh Mazumdar (playing an aspiring director) and Ritu Dalmia; Film: One Short Walk/One Shot Walk (shot in one shot)

Susheel Kumar and Rashmi Ramakrishnan; Cameraman: Rahul Vamadevan: Vapours Of Reality

Link to Dekhchish Ki Amon Bhabe:

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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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