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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. 



Third Eye, 2022, 19, 04: Asian Film Festival screens five Gujarati Films, including Hellaro

Third Eye, 2022, 19, 04: Asian Film Festival screens five Gujarati Films, including Hellaro

In a specially curated package, the Thirst Eye Asian Film Festival has screened five Gujarati films. Film archiver and film culture activist Subhash Chheda, a friend of mine, has curated the package. For those who missed it at other festivals, the primary attraction would have been the Award wiNational nning Hellaro, directed by Abhishek Shah. The other films are Dhad (Paresh Naik), Reva (Rahul Bhole and Vineet Kanojia), 21st Tiffin (Vijaygiri Bawa) and Aa Chhe Maru Gaam (long documenarty by Gopi Desai).

Set in 1975, in a village called Samarpura, in the Kutchh region of Gujarat, Hellaro is a film about the lagging behind of women when it comes to social, political, financial and cultural issues. A society that worships women as devis (goddesses) also exploits them and denies them their basic human rights. It deservedly won the National Award.

A still from Dhad

Dhad, and Aa Chhe Maru Gaam, by actress-director Gopi Desai, were the

Interaction at the screening of Aa Chhe Maru Gaam

films I missed due to other, more pressing engagements. Reva turned out to be a kind of treasure hunt, with clues dropped at five different places. In the process, it sought to glorify the river Narmada, which is also known as Reva in some parts of Gujarat. The treatment being too formulaic, I managed to watch it only till the halfway mark. Based on what I saw, I would say that it is passable fare, at best, and can be avoided. You will not miss much. 21st Tiffin, on the other hand, is a thoroughly watchable film, with strong content, but tacky technical parameters.

On location with the director and main cast of 21st Tiffin

An Ahmedabad woman obsessed, with cooking, sends tiffins (lunch-boxes) to nearby places for mainly students and young employees to get a taste of home-made food. She has a daughter who wants to have no part of her mother’s daily routine, but is forced to, because she is on college vacation. Her husband plays on the stock market and there is very little exchange between husband and wife. Her only soul-mate is a neighbour, who comes in every afternoon for a couple of hours and chats with her. So far, she is sending 20 tiffins a day. And then a young employee, on an internship posting to Ahmedabad sees his friends savouring the food coming in tiffins. When invited to do so, he tastes the food, and goes completely gaga over it. Now he wants to order a tiffin for himself too, from the same lady. But the lady-cook is unwilling to send the 21st Tiffin, hence the title. A good example where below par camera-work, editing and colours do not interfere with the narrative. This one can surely be watched.

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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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