Hey all. I have the privilege to fill in for Patrix for a few days as he is snowed under work (See: Previous Post)! You can listen to us ramble on Indicast, but, while writing this post (that’s a first!), I realised that writing can be a serious business and a time consuming one! So, here is a big shout out to patrix and all you bloggers out there who create original and more importantly consistent content! Wish me luck…
The trouble with movie reviews
In Indian cinema, the process of making a film is fairly simple. Unless you are an Ashutosh Gowarikar daring a Lagaan or a Mira Nair adapting Lahiri’s Namesake, an average Indian director weaves the illusionary script around a story (if it exists) and if he gets lucky, the “process” works too. In Hollywood (the closest rival to Bollywood!), where the director (Read: Scorcesse) moves around to choose his cast with the script in hand, here, our ambitious film makers have their script writers pen the dialogues at almost real time while the make up artists work on our melodramatic actors in the “artist room”.
According to me, these are a few givens that our movie reviewers writing for national newspapers should acknowledge and respect. For example, if the movie is good, the review should start with the caveat, ‘Other things remaining equal,” the film can still beat the likes of a Ben Hur or that may be it is too late in the day for the director to consider a career shift. Bollywood is Bollywood inspite of or probably because of these idiosyncracies. But, our beloved journalists seem to dwell on the wrong side of Bollywood.
What bothers me is the shallowness of the movie reviews that are carried in leading media vehicles today. I understand that India churnes out more movies per year than any other country (where 9 out of 10 movies flop is another piece of important information) and that the journalists have to endure almost all of them with deadlines biting away their precious time to fill in the next day’s column which will be read by a million people from metros for there is not much to read in the papers apart from the chronicles of detailed follow up to celebrity weddings.
Knowing that there is an audience who would want to know about the movie, the reviewers do gross injustice with the few words that they are asked to write. With half of the article dedicated to summarising the movie, consider some cliches that you may come across in the other “perceptive” half from the ‘first day first show’ journos: A tolerent journalist would write about a bad film, ‘The dialogues were shallow and the acting superficial,’ and if the writer has nothing good to say about the director, he uses the ubiquitous line from his archives, ‘The direction was shoddy and the camerawork amature.’ If he wants to convey that the actress had nothing much to do in the film and if he has a soft corner for Aishwarya Rai, (Mrs. Bachchan), ‘Aishwarya Rai’s beauty falls in the way of her acting which goes unnoticed yet again.’ And lately, Abhishek Bachchan delivered ‘a powerpacked performance‘ in all the reviews.
While what most authors say may be true, it is too generic. All of the above lines can hold true for all movies. There is nothing new that the author brings to the table about the movie that the reader whould want to read or would love to know about.
A Roger Ebert or a James Berardinelli tell you why they felt that the direction was shoddy. They seem to respect the space that they are given in the news papers. They will help you visualise why a Stanley Kubrick’s steady cam did the trick in ‘The Shining‘ and why Oliver Stone got it all wrong with his infatuation with turbulent camera jerks in ‘Any Given Sunday.‘ Aren’t Indian writers competant enough to use the english language to give us something new? May be our movies do not warrant the kind of clinical perception. But, with every Rang de basanti or a Munnabhai or the more recent, ‘Gandhi, my Father’ there are a hunderd reviews born and one among those stands out and gives me hope that the movie reviewing business ain’t dead. Not as yet. It is just that our writers are plain lazy to put their mind on paper. Oh, the writing is just too shoddy!