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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com 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. 

 

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Brick Mansions, Review

Brick Mansions How often is a film remade in another language ten years after the original, with the writer of the original writing it this time too, and producing it as well?  There must have been something special in the 2004 French action thriller Banlieue (District) 13, directed by Pierre Morel and written by Luc Besson & Bibi Naceri, to merit such a move. District 13 was credited with helping bring the stunt-like and highly athletic moves of Parkour (physical training style) to th...

Tarzan, Review

Tarzan This 2013 production by German director Reinhard Klooss is a franchise authorised by the estate of the original author, Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950), but rather different from any of the story-lines written by him. Tarzan of the Apes appeared in the October 1912 issue of All-Story magazine. Burroughs received $700 for the tale. The first Tarzan movie appeared in 1918, with Elmo Lincoln in the title role. (Imagine, it will be a hundred years old in 2017)! Eventually Burroughs penned...

Revolver Rani, Review

Revolver Rani One can be pardoned for linking two films with the same name and imagining for a while that the latter might be a remake, especially if both are titled Revolver Rani, even if the new one is released 43 years after the original. Both are bound to have a female in the title role and both would obviously show her blazing away to glory. The earlier film was released in 1971, director K.V.S. Kutumba Rao, B & W and had Vijayalalitha as the Rani. It was dubbed in Hindi from a Telu...

Finding Happiness, Review

Finding Happiness Against a background of economic crisis, climatic catastrophes and the cancer of corruption, journalist Juliet Palmer, of Profiles magazine, is given an unusual assignment, a “..so not me” project that she initially refuses to accept but is coaxed into doing, by her boss at the magazine. It involves visiting a spiritual community in northern California interviewing its visionary founder: Swami Kriyananda and his Ananda World Brotherhood Village. Kriyananda had fo...

Samrat & Co., Review

  Samrat & Co. A distribution company that moved to production in the early 60s, Rajshri is an Indian banner known for socially relevant cinema. Over the last 20 years, after founder Tarachand Barjatya passed away and grandson Sooraj emerged as a director, the emphasis has been on grand love stories and sacrificial family drama, all firmly entrenched in the milieu of the rich and famous of the present era. Most of them have worked. One, Hum Aapke Hain Koun (directed by Sooraj), is r...

Remembering Gabriel Jose Garcia Marquez

   Quotes It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there's not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination."                   From The Paris Review Interviews, Gabriel García Márquez, The Art of Fiction No. 69 A...

Transcendence, Review

Transcendence Dr. Will Caster (Johnny Depp), a scientist and leading researcher in the field of Artificial Intelligence. He is working to create a machine that combines the collective intelligence of everything ever known, with the full range of human emotions.  His highly controversial experiments have made him famous, but they have also made him the prime target of anti-technology extremists, belonging to a secret society named RIFT, who will do whatever it takes to stop him. RIFT beli...

Son of God reviewed

Son of God Making a television series or a feature film on a holy book or a historical figure comes with not one but many occupational hazards, like: *Do you picturise every bit in the text, in order to give a complete picture? Or do you exercise editorial discretion, at the cost of committing the sin of omission? *Do you take everything literally, interpreting the facts to the best of your ability? Or do you go for interpretations and the use of explanatory dialogue/silence, as the narrati...

Indian lyricist-writer-director Gulzar bags DadaSaheb Phalke award

Gulzar chosen for DadaSaheb Phalke Award, India’s biggest recognition of film personalities’ lifetime contribution to Indian cinema The Man who Defeated the Sun and Stole the Moon Sampooran Singh Kalra, born on 18 August 1936, in Dina (now in Pakistan), is better known by his nom de plume, Gulzar (garden).  Dina is located in the northern part of Jhelum District, approximately16 km north of Jhelum City, with a population of under 50,000. In the 40s, the Kalra family fi...

Mickey Rooney: "And that's the way I've always lived"

       Mickey Rooney: "And that's the way I have always lived” Joe Yule Jr., better known as Mickey Rooney, star of all-time hits like wartime satire, The Human Comedy (1943) and National Velvet (1944, with Elizabeth Taylor, about a horse), would have turned 94 on 23 September 2014. But he bid us his last good-bye on 06 April 2014. In 2003, Rooney began their association with Rainbow Puppet Productions, providing his voices to the 100th Anniversary pro...

Divergent, Review

Divergent, Review Divergent is set in a world that has been reduced to a city, Chicago, due a conflict that destroyed the rest of the planet. There has been peace for the last 100 years, an achievement mainly attributed to the principle of dividing people factions, based on human virtues: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (kindness), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), and Erudite (intelligence). Anyone who does not conform to one of these five is banished to the city outskirts, as "fa...

Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Review

Captain America: The Winter Soldier 3D IMAX Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, and following on from The Avengers. It is the ninth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Two years after the Battle of New York, Steve Rogers/Captain America is taken by Natasha Romanoff on a mission-- to rescue the hostages of a hijacked S.H.I.E.L.D ship. But there are two parallel secret agendas behind this apparently purposeless crime that will reveal sho...

Divergent, PREVIEW

Divergent, Preview Divergent is an action-adventure film set in a not-too-distant world where people are divided into distinct factions, based on human virtues: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (kindness), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), and Erudite (intelligence). Anyone who does not conform is banished to the city outskirts, as "factionless." A person who values all five virtues equally, and who has the ability to do so, is known as "Divergent." Beatrice ‘Tr...

O Teri, Review of the Indian Hindi film

O Teri In all fairness, the title should have been a giveaway, and one should be prepared for crass, senseless, tasteless fare. If you weren’t, you are yourself to blame. ‘O teri ....’ is a phrase that, when usually completed, means an obscenity in the Punjabi language, which is a lot in use in the Mumbai film industry. So, if you want to be merely suggestive, without going the whole hog, you just say, ‘O teri!’ leaving the rest to fertile imaginations. Salman K...

Review of the film Noah

Noah Whenever a film is attempted on a religious/mythological/historical premise, there are bound to be objections to its content, or form, or both. Even fiction and biographical movies face this hostility, and have learnt to live with it. Orthodox believers might find it difficult to watch Noah objectively and avoid comparison to the holy text. Liberals and other film-buffs are more likely to detach themselves (or not to attach themselves in the first place) from the words of the Book, and r...

Review of the film Sabotage

Sabotage Exciting, but not the most appropriate title for the story. Sabotage was called Ten, before they settled on Sabotage. Apparently, the subject has had title issues right from 1943, a few years after Dame Agatha Christie wrote the multiple murder mystery novel. It is, after all, her most adapted piece. In '43, it was staged as a play under the book’s original UK title, Ten Little Niggers, but only after changing the ending. In 2005, Kevin Elyot, screenwriter for man...

Review of the film Hola Venky!

Hola Venky! What are a Spanish greeting and an Indian chicken fast-food brand name doing together in a film title? Why was it titled ‘Hola Benky’ earlier? So, what is the film all about? In 2013, could a feature film really have been made on a budget of Rs. 10 lakh (1 million)/$16,000? Who is the writer-director, Sandeep Mohan? Lead actors Roger Narayan and Sonia Balcazar….what is their background? Who are the supporting actors? Is it worth watching? BTW: Where does Ma...

Review of the film Muppets Most Wanted

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Muppets Most Wanted A franchise that probably suffered due to the committee-style of film-making, Muppets Most Wanted does have its moments. At the end of it all, though, one feels that it is a case of wasted opportunities. Too many insider jokes, too many take-offs and too many guest appearances of little consequence make the eighth Muppet outing nowhere near the best. A muppet is a cross between a marionette and a puppet, created by Jim Henson (died 1990), which lends itself to an interestin...

Need for Speed? Indeed!

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Need for Speed Steven Spielberg/DreamWorks SKG Pictures’ production Need for Speed is a rivetting car racing thriller, which, though inspired by a video-game, is compelling viewing, even as a stand-alone brand. It justifies the add-on 3D after-thought as a wise decision. Stunts that were confined to clever use of the principle of ‘persistence of vision’, and created by smart editing, in films of the 60s and 70s, like Bullitt and French Connection, come-off spectacularly smooth...

Shashi Kapoor, on his 76th birthday

Call it co-incidence or destiny, but I got to meet, and shake the hand of, Shashi Kapoor, on his 76th birthday. For the last six years, I could not bring myself to meeting him because I could not bear to see him on a wheel-chair. But I did come very close to him at the service of his brother Shammi Kapoor, who passed away in 2011. I bumped into Shashi's daughter Sanjana at an event two years ago, and she re-assured me his illness was not all that bad. There was a lot of talk abou...

Series and franchises: Milking cash cows or creating new content?

Abhishek Bachchan, Indian lead actor and son of legendary Amitabh Bachchan, who has acted in all three outings of the superhit Dhoom series of action films made over the last ten years, and Vijay Krishna Acharya, writer of all three and director of the third film in the series, were on the stage on day 2 of FICCI FRAMES, the three-day international convention on media and entertainment which concluded in Mumbai yesterday. Working in a franchise such as 'Dhoom' and ...

Animation Awards at FICCI FRAMES 2014

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Awards for outstanding animation work in cinema and television were announced and given at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)'s 15th annual media conference, FRAMES, which was held during March 12-14, at the Renaissance Hotel, Mumbai. Both national and international talent was recognised. A list of the award winners is pasted along with this report, in PDF format. It is surely appreciable that a lot of Indian animators won for their work in Hollywood and ...

STAR TV India CEO Uday Shankar prefers some regulation over no regulation

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In its 15th year, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)'s annual international conference on Media and Entertainment, FRAMES, kicked-off this morning at the Renaissance Hotel, Mumbai. A long introductory session spread-over into the next session, and the overlap continued into the afternoon. Manish Tiwari, the Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, scheduled to attend, was conspicuous by his absence, and his Secretary in the Ministry, Bimal J...

FICCI FRAMES

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Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) is holding its 15th annual international media conclave, called FRAMES, at Mumbai, on the 12th, 13th and 14th of March 2014. Thousands of delegates and media-persons will gather to listen to eminent speakers from cinema, television, radio, gaming and other related industries, on the state-of-the-art and challenges at hand. FICCI will also release the KPMG annual report on the entertainment industry, with figures, trends and predictio...

Review of the Indian Hindi film Total Siyapaa

Total Siyapaa www: wail, woe, waste Siyapaa, spelt variously as siapa, seapa, siyaapaa, siyapa, etc., is a Punjabi word that means ‘wailing’. This film, which was earlier titled Aman ki Asha (meaning peace hoped for, Aman and Asha also being common names in Pakistan/India and the names of the lead characters in the film), swings so dramatically between farce and bathos that the audience is bound to wail time and again. Remade, with some obvious adaptation/localisation, from Only...

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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 FilmFestivals.com 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

India



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