Saturday, 10 August 2013

Why Indian movie critics get it so wrong

Seeing a spate of movie reviews over the last month, I wondered why so many of the Bollywood movie reviews are at complete variance with what was found when one finally watched it. Typically flop, snooze-fests  get 4 star ratings  and inspirational superhits like " Bhaag Milkha Bhaag" get 2-3 star ratings
So here goes the top reasons why Indian movie critics get it so wrong:

1)      Critics are unable to measure against similar genres
A masala movie like “Chennai Express”, which has smashed box office records, is given the same contemptuous review as “Himmatwala” , which bombed badly. And not a single critic has the sensibility or analytical power to even wonder why one potboiler should be so successful while the other similar genre film flopped. Because hey, “it’s a masala film and my little circle of nerdy movie geeks will think I’m a sell-out if I say I like them”

2)      Critics live in cultural ghettos and have no clue who the target audience of a film is:
The reality is that most of the critics are fans of Satyajit Ray and Mani Ratnam. So anything catering to the typical “Hindi” audiences has to be frivolous. The sneery,patronising undertone is evident in their reviews and the standard defence is “We critique a movie, we don’t consider trade figures”. Yeah sure, but your critique has no meaning when the message is lost.

3)      Critics get personal:
You have them saying that “This actor is desperate , over the hill” etc. which has nothing to do with the film . So now, let’s see if critics can take the personal attacks as well. Anybody in journalism will tell you that film critics are usually at the bottom of the pecking order in a journalistic sense. Almost none are qualified movie critics and are just avid movie watchers of world cinema. During the job interview they reel off names like Bergman and Francois Truffaut and the poor editors give them the job as they really need to focus on more serious matters. And thereafter, it’s these sods who review Bollywood!!

4)      Critics fall in love with a headline and then write the review to match it:
It’s like making a coffin and then trying to find a body to fit in it. So if a critic’s clever headline is “Chennai Express is Rukh-Rukh” , then it means the review needs to say that the movie falters to a stop , otherwise it would be a waste of a smart headline, wouldn't it?

5)      Critics are overawed by personas:  
So you can be sure that any film produced by Anurag Kashyap or endorsed by Kiran Rao will get a thumbs up. After all these people condemn those silly Bollywood films, so they must be ree-aaal intelligent and know what they are talking about. Never mind that the critic was the only person awake, while audiences slept.
P.S : I need to add here,that 'Madras Cafe'released just two weeks after 'Chennai Express". NOT surprisingly the same critics who had a problem with the stereotypical "dark, menacing southies"in Chennai Express, had no problem with the same in 'Madras Cafe'. After all Shoojit Sircar is a "thinking" director, while that Rohit Shetty should have shown lily-white goondas. Point proven.

6)      Critics don’t see the movie with the paying public:
 Since they get tickets as freebies these critics never watch the movie with the audience that it is meant for. Which means they have no hope in hell of knowing whether the film has achieved what it set out to do. So do pay next time. Rs. 200 is a small price to get some credibility.  

Imagine how utterly frustrating it is for them to think they are changing the way people view cinema and then to their chagrin “Ek Tha Tiger’and “Chennai Express” go full steam ahead , embraced by the very people who read their columns!

The paying public rules !!