Opinion: Why movie critics are a breath of life but a kiss of death for the masses, Opinions & Blogs News


Once, in the mid-1970s, when mainstream films and parallel Bollywood cinema were booming, I asked the late Manmohan Desai [Amar Akbar Anthony, Naseeb, Coolie, Mard] his take on the matter. The successful Masala filmmaker’s definitive response has been as transparent, unapologetic, and entertaining as his gems.

“Jab bhi reviews aur experts mera film ko tareef karta hai, ghabrahat hota hai. Mutlab, pucca flop! Jab bhi kass ke gaali deta high English mein, English akbaar aur magazine mein, main solid khush hota hoon … mutlab, pucca super to hit!!”

(Whenever critics and pundits praise my movie, I’m scared because it’s a sure sign that the movie is crashing at the box office. But when they describe my movies in their articles in English newspapers and magazines, I feel thrilled because that means the film will do very well in theaters)

Actor-director Rahul Bose’s point of view was diametrically opposed. [English August, Mr. & Mrs Iyer, 15 Park Avenue, The Japanese Wife, Jhankar Beats, Pyar Ka Side Effects].

“For me, critical appreciation is much more important than mass ra-ra and this is reflected in the films I participate in. Appreciation certainly has its place, but the hosannas in the advanced and thought section make my day. It allows me to explore new frontiers of opportunity, ”he said.

Cut to a reality check. In mad Bollywood India, not even the most [rare?] the analytical and perceptive critics of film critics seem to make the slightest break with the janata.

Why? Quite simply because conditioning is the key and contrary to the eyes of critics, these films do not represent their path to Xanadu; nor do they symbolize a space where massive changes have taken place and all bets are off and certainly not the moment when everything has hit the ceiling and all the old rules of the game have undergone a cataclysmic transformation furiously, quickly and for always.

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The masses have a clear idea of ​​what they are looking for and the role that a Bollywood film plays in their life. Moreover, contrary to popular belief, the endorsement of big bills, testimonials or praise from the most respected or famous names – be it Scorsese, Tarantino, Ray, Sen, Aparna, Benegal or Shabana & Adoor – don’t matter.

Brand loyalty is high and the movies slow, gloomy and celebrate realism [art house?] are totally off their radar. They have little knowledge or interest in these products, safe and fulfilled as they are in their familiar world of glamorous and sexy heroines, macho, dashing heroes and the hi-octane that comes with it. dramabaazi it goes with it.

In this scheme of things, does a critic have hellish hopes to break through and make a difference? Why not go back to basics and return to an iconic film critic who defined his vocation with rare honesty, passion and purpose? Who better than the Big Mamma of film critics, sung and celebrated as the most beautiful voice of her generation, the late Pauline Kael

“The role of a critic is to help people see what’s in the work, what it shouldn’t be, what isn’t there and could be. He’s a good reviewer if he helps people understand the work better than they might see for themselves. It is a great critic if by his understanding and his sense of work, by his passion, he can excite people to want to experience more the art that is waiting to be grasped. He is not necessarily a bad reviewer if he makes errors in judgment. It is a bad review if it does not arouse curiosity, increase the interest and understanding of its audience. The art of the critic is therefore to pass on his knowledge and his enthusiasm for cinema to others.

Certainly in a country like ours where entertainment is Bollywood and Bollywood means stars, that’s a huge challenge BUT if we actually had a reviewer who was between an arrogant, an arrogant guy and a frivolous artist to make you pass a good time, that would be perfect.

Someone like Kael who combined a dazzling style that mesmerized readers, with a deep knowledge, intelligence and genuine desire and concern to connect with readers in a way that engages, entertains, enriches, enlightens, or even reinforces, it is a well-known fact that Kael’s influence, reputation and status were so enormous and his reviews were so hard-hitting that box office reports frequently swung with his opinions.

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Do we have only one examiner from this class? On the day that will come (and it will take commitment as well as a rare blend of marketing know-how and scholarship) the fate of little gems like Masaan, Waiting, Aligarh, No Fathers in Kashmir, Manto, Omerta, Newton, City Lights … will change forever.

Like the recent OTT phenomenon, there will be a healthy coexistence and a level playing field and level playing field. After all, cinema, the youngest of the arts, lives on discussion, experimentation, curiosity, variety, exchange and confrontation of points of view.

If these critics discussed less art and more substance, more sociology less aesthetics, all in an interesting and user-friendly way, they would make an immense contribution to breaking down the closed community, advancing the cause of cinema and generally uplift the content that needs to be exhibited.

What better way to take this critical issue forward than to revisit the memorable words of another iconic film critic, the late James Agee, when he took over as the critic of The Nation, describing to readers his condition as a “with rare humility and clarity he wrote:” I suspect that I am much more than not, in your own situation: deeply interested in moving images, greatly experienced from childhood watching them, to y thinking about and talking about them and totally without experience or even a lot of second hand knowledge about how they are made.

If I’m generally right in this hypothesis, we start from the same field with the same handicaps and I qualify to be here – if at all – only by two means. It is my business to lead one end of the conversation as an amateur reviewer among amateur reviewers, and I will only be useful and interesting to the extent that my amateur judgment is sound, thought-provoking and enlightening.

Contrary to popular belief, a true critic can decode and demystify both art and mainstream advertising in a way that presses the AIDA button – Attention, Interest, Desire, Action! The finest examples (Roger Ebert, Peter Travers, Kenneth Turan, Andrew Savis, John Simon, Chris Stuckman, Philip French, Scott Tobais) have demonstrated this with class. In the Indian cinematographic scene, unfortunately, we mainly have the critics, the serious critics [of the zzzzzzz variety] or the exhib that gives you less insight and more entertainment.

The day when we have open, inclusive, pluralistic critics with a vision and a mission to break down borders and build bridges by intelligently describing, analyzing and interpreting films, without any baggage … then the breath of life and the Kiss of Death will merge to present the ultimate surround sound of tumultuous joy!

(Disclaimer: The views of the author do not represent those of WION or ZMCL. WION or ZMCL also do not endorse the views of the author.)


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