Friday, November 26, 2010

Critiquing criticism..

Recently my college lecturer Ramesh Prabhu asked me what I thought about the Indian film criticism and the criticism it has received of late from a various quarters. It set me thinking. In fact I have often thought about it, but this time I put it into some words. He included it in his own blog which also included other such pieces. I thought I would like to paste the same in my blog too, for some reaction from you. Do let me know what you think!

Pasted below is my mail to him… (Please bear my grammatical and spelling errors J)


This is one thing that I have been talking to people about for ages now. I agree film criticism in India has become a joke. At most times it is about pointless criticism.

I can only speak for Hindi cinema/Bollywood. The industry is at a very interesting stage. There is a change in the type of films that are being made. Films like Udaan, Tere Bin Laden and makers like Anurag Kashyap, Shivam Nair, Shimit Amin, Onir and Rajat Kapoor are trying hard to do something that has so often been rejected. They are trying to send the viewers through a rehabilitation... of movie viewing. 

But these makers often end up being booed by certain reviewers... as they cannot identify with kind of films. And that's because they grew up on 80s films and somewhere tug along with the same flow.

Is film criticism dead?
On the other hand there is a young generation of reviewers who are welcoming the change. And in their excitement they some times show the green light to just about any movie which pretends to be 'new'. And these reviewers go about blacklisting any 'mass entertainer' calling them 'same old trash'. What makes things worse is that most of them, young kids, have not seen half as much Hindi films as they have seen Hollywood fares. I know people, 24 year olds, who have been reviewing for couple of years and they have not seen Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor or B Subhash. All three are important people. While the first two made classics, B Subhash gave us Disco Dancer!

There is a lack of balance hence.

Plus on a personal note, I was pushed into reviewing. As the clients needed reviews! There are many others who get into reviewing the same way as i did... because it's a job and it needs to be done! I refused to to Hollywood reviews though as I thought I was not qualified enough,. But I loved watching Hindi films so i carried on with it. Over the time I have learnt... and i have openly admitted that I have gone wrong in my judgement on multiple occasions. Today I tell people  - A film is fine if the director tell what he wanted to tell in a good way. That's one thing that probably should be kept in the top of one's mind while reviewing movies. You don't expect a movie to be liked by everyone. I hated a Housefull some loved it. I love TBL some hated it. That depends on what kind of humour you like. I found Golmaal Returns better, Victor found Golmaal 3 better. The point hence is - did the director manage to do what he sought out to do. And if he didn't, what were the issues? 

That also brings us to something very important - A reviewer cannot be subjective before he goes to watch a film. While reviews are supposed to be opinion pieces, and they very well are, the writer has to be able to adjust into any kind film. It is his duty to watch the film and give a perspective to the audience on what the film is about and how to look at it. I hate horror films but i cannot slam every film in the genre. What I should ideally do is to tell people that this is a horror film and if you like the genre this is for you. If you don't like horror film you need not watch it... but nevertheless the film is made well. 

But more often people end up bashing a film completely... ignoring anything good the film might have. Even RGV's Aag, which seems to be the epitome of trash for many, had good things about it.  It had better sound than many of RGVs previous films. And then there are people who just can't stand an actor/director and slams the film. One trade person panned MNIK so bad... he wrote a 3242 word review!

Finally.... all the above only stands true if you are a true publication. For me, I cannot be dishonest to my readers. I write what I think is right. And if the readers find that I am in sync with their tastes they will continue going by me. Many media houses are already losing followers because stars sell for money. A lakh a star has become a norm... and that I got to know when someone asked if I have been offered a 'package' after I said I like a film which many others panned!


There is a good piece I just stumbled as I was looking for a photo to go with this post. Here's a link ... enjoy.