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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’s IFFI 2016 diary, XIII: IM Kwon-taek’s 102 films and SPB’s 40,000 songs

Siraj Syed’s IFFI 2016 diary, XIII: IM Kwon-taek’s 102 films and SPB’s 40,000 songs

South Korean film-maker IM Kwon-taek was conferred with the Lifetime Achievement Award and Indian singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam was felicitated with the Centenary Award for Indian Film Personality of the Year at the International Film festival of India, 2016. The 80 year-old, famed director talked briefly, even owning up to some of his work that wasn’t well-received. Regarded as the father of Korean cinema for his long and prolific career and his work on typically Korean themes and subjects, IM Kwon Taek was feted at the hands of noted Indian director, Ramesh Sippy, who made the all-time favourite dacoit drama, Sholay.

Born in a town that had no cinemas, he began as a studio director, in 1962, with Farewell Duman River. 1976’s Wang Sib Ri/My Hometown, that he began to approach film as a more artistic medium. From then on, he gained acclaim making a series of dramas focused on various aspects of Korean cultural facets, from shamanism (The Divine Bow, 1979) and Buddhism (Mandala, 1981) to womanhood (The Surrogate Womb, 1987) and politics (The Tae Baek Mountains, 1994). In a more commercial mould in the early 90s, IM made The General’s Son (1990-92, period gangster trilogy, the first two of which were the top-grossing films of 1990 and 1991. In 1993, IM made what is arguably the film he is most famous for, the pansori (ancient songs of unrequited love) road drama Seopyeonje (spelling varies), which was also the first Korean film to sell a million tickets in Seoul alone.

His 2000 pansori adaptation Chunhyang, was screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival and his next work, Chihwaseon, earned the Best Director award in the same competition in 2002. The Surrogate Womb winning Best Actress for current Busan International Film Festival director KANG Soo-yeon at the Venice International Film Festival in 1987 and his 1993 classic Seopyeonje often featuring near the top of best of Korean cinema lists. In 2005, he was conferred an honorary Golden Bear from the Berlin International Film Festival. Following a few films that were less well-received, IM returned with his 102nd film Revivre, in 2014, which debuted at Venice, and was broadly screened at international events.

Besides IFFI, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Asian Film Awards, too, in 2015. After Goa governor Mridula Sinha gave him the prize at the opening ceremony, IM made some brief remarks, alluding to how he felt he had made immature films at the beginning of his career. Earlier, at a press conference, the octogenarian filmmaker stated that he believed he had yet to make a full-fledged masterpiece.

IM also reserved some kind works for Indian cinema, when he mentioned his appreciation for the works of actor Shah Rukh Khan (did he get the name wrong or what? ShahRukh did not work in 3 Idiots, Aamir Khan did), including 3 Idiots (2009), and the India-set Danny Boyle’s Academy Award winner Slumdog Millionaire (2008, starring Dev Patel, and based on a novel that was inspired by a popular TV game show).

Legendary singer, actor and music director S.P. Balasubrahmanyam (with the shawl) was felicitated for his contribution to Indian Cinema at the hands of India’s Central Government Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Venkaiah Naidu and actor Mukesh Khanna (on the extreme right). Although he is cited as the personality of the Year, this is SPB’s 50th year in films and he has completed 70 years of age last June. A few months before his 69th birthday, SP Balasubrahmanyam had the rare distinction of singing the maximum number of songs on a single day. He recorded 21 songs in Kannada, for composer Upendra Kumar, from 9 am to 9 pm, on February 8, 1981. IN addition, he has also sung 19 songs in Tamil and 16 songs in Hindi in a day.

SPB was born in a part of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state, which is now revamped, and his birth home falls in TamilNadu. Having made his debut in 1966 in a Telugu film, Sri Sri Sri Maryaada Raamanna, he has rendered his voice to tens of thousands of songs in 15 languages, and holds a Guinness Record for having recorded the highest number of songs, which has led him to confess, “I regretted not watching my kids grow up due to my busy schedules.” And he is even a trained singer.

(with RDB, right)

Telugu movie Sankarabharanam and 1981 Hindi hit Ek Duje Ke Liye (he sang for the on-screen Kamalahasan, a pairing that was repeated in R.D. Burman and Ramesh Sippy’s Saagar) are films that became the turning points of his career. He later acquired fame in Hindi films as the playback voice that was best identified with the rising superstar, Salman Khan, mainly with the film Maine Pyar Kiya.

It was a dream come true for him when he was invited by no less a legend than the Emperor of film music, Naushad, to sing for Teri Payal Mere Geet. The film flopped, but Naushad received the Miyan Tansen (the unrivalled singer at Emperor Akbar’s court) award for the best classical composition in a Hindi film, while he bagged the best classical singer award. Relative newcomers but superstars of their time, the composer duo Nadeem-Shravan had great adulation for him. Nadeem often said that he was the best singer in of his time. SPB regards Mohammed Rafi as his ‘all time favourite’ singer and inspiration, and said he learnt from Rafi (died 1980), more than anyone else.

Controversy had raged all through the70s, when giants like Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi were trying to prove that one, not the other, had sung more than 28,000 songs. It was settled for good now, but not between them. Rafi died in 1980, Lata is close to 90. A third claimant emerged, and won: the six times winner of National Film Awards for Best Male Playback Singer, Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam has sung more than 40,000 songs so far, reckons the (Guinness) Book of World Records, taking him to the top of their countdown!


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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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