Adoor Gopalakrishnan, one of the most acclaimed Indian film maker said that he hardly read any good review in any Indian language in recent times and so concluded that there is hardly any good criticism nowadays. Film criticism is broadly the evaluation of a film and the film medium, a critic is supposed to analyze and convey the unique thought of the director to the viewers bridging the gap between the world of the film director’s mind and the individual viewers. According to Ray, the maestro of Indian cinema, the Indian film critics must have a depth of understanding of the form and good knowledge of the trends and techniques of the medium.
But, in the days of online renaissance, where self ran blogs dominate, everyone is a critic. The days of movie reviews by knowledgeable film scholars like Chidananda Dasgupta , Swapan Mullick, Brajeshwar Mohan, Rashmi Doraiswamy with profound understandings of the form and passion for the medium are gone. The present day critics under the corporate owned big presses seem to be practicing coverage of the big releases. The individual voice of the critic gets drowned in lousy business between the producers or the studios and the presses.
Realizing the influences of film critics for the box office success of their new release, the studios strategically manage the review process, purchasing good reviews for their films and even the star critics from Bollywood sell their reviews for money, some for publicity, as the studios excerpt positive reviews in the movie posters with their names. Besides, even the star powers and big budgets can control the impact of reviews.
Though the scenario is thought to be changing slowly, in India key to films box-office success still lies in the star cast, as it automatically draws public focus. Big budgets, lavish sets, expensive costumes, foreign locations, special effects adds to the entertainment value of the film, blunting the effects of open criticism or negative reviews. Even the fan followers of the stars play critical roles to counter the negative reviews. Recently, when actress politician Jaya Bachhan in a literary meet commented that ‘Happy New Year’ starring King Khan in the lead role and his son actor Abhishek Bachhan the “most nonsensical film” of recent years: the comment was taken out of context and twisted, creating a hype.
The open criticism by her was instead criticized by the stars and the fan followers. Although a handful of critics like Anupama Chopra, Taran Adarsh, Rajeev Masand, Nikhat Kazmi, Khalid Mohammad continue to give their best, most of the critics in India now practice advertising the big budget films. These critics though not all are deficient of a proper standpoint, and usually transcribe the entire plot of the film without going into much details and fills up their columns with vague comments clearly showing lack of basic knowledge and understandings.
The condition is such that Suhasini Maniratnam a noted, National Award winning actor and wife of Tamil film director Mani Ratnam urged the media, “Let qualified people alone review O Kadhal Kanmani”-a recent Tamil romantic comedy written, directed and produced by Mani Ratnam. Though there is no dearth of web critics in India yet the saddest part is the small budget indie films still strive to get a proper publicity due to lack of concerned reviewers. The critical open criticism of Roger Eberts is no more, let’s hope the scenario will change in the hands of those who continue to write.
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