In the last couple of years, this little litany has been getting louder. Not in a polite, discursive way. But in an aggressive tone. What do film critics know about what the audience wants If it is so bad, how does it make so much money Why are you so sniffy about blockbusters The moment you give a film one star, we know it is going to bust the box office.
Right, what do I know Im just the long-time film critic who sits through everything the excruciatingly awful ones, the middling ones, the good-but-could-have-been-better ones, and the ones that blow me away, the better to sift grain from chaff. More importantly, I am that person to whom putative crores mean nothing. What has meaning is the film in front of me, and what sense I make of it.
Dear viewers, once and for all, I am here to tell you that the amount of money that a movie makes has nothing to do with its intrinsic worth. The money that it makes only tells me, and should tell you too, if you stop to think about it, just how hard-sold the movie was. And how you, dear viewer, fell for it.
Television spots. Reality show judges and special appearances. Posters. Full-page newspaper ads. An online blitz of First Looks! and Official Trailers!. Interviews. Magazine Q&As. The machine is out in full force, making sure that whenever you turn, on every bit of media that you own and consume, you see a glimpse of the film that you absolutely must see this Friday. What will happen if you dont You wont have bragging rights. What if your friends see it before you do and talk about it at the Friday night bash Youll go uh-huh, uh-huh, curse yourself for not having anything to say. What if, horror, it makes a hundred crores, and you havent been part of that party Its called being left out. In the hyper-linked, hyper-connected times we live in, in which you read someones live tweets about a film even as you watch it what!, to actually have to watch the damn thing, without someone else telling you what they are thinking about the scene you cannot not be a part of that global feeling.
Its not your fault. You are inundated by so much verbiage that there is no time for GIGO, which meant, in a more innocent time, garbage in, garbage out. Everyone online, and who isnt these days, is busy thumbing up and thumbing down, saying how much they loved or hated a film. Instant judgement, which takes less time than instant noodles. No time to breathe, no time to think, no time to let the film rest. No time to really get in touch with the sides of your brain and heart that tell you, yes, boss, that was really good. Or, yuck, that sucked. Thats a luxury you dont have. Theres only so much noise you can take in, the rest you regurgitate.
One hundred crore! 200 crore! The numbers dont really tell us anything about the film. All they do is give us an insight on how certain filmmakers are using audience and market interchangeably, and unforgivably. I cringe when a film is called a product, and I am not, and never will be, a market.
The moment we hear about how much money the film will make, we are primed. Why is that the sole reason to watch a film Then, we are sheep being herded into the plexes, just adding to their bottomline, not nourishing our inner movie enthusiast. Thats when you reach out to a film critic, who will tell you if the film worked on its own parameters, on what it sets out to do and if not, why not. Not, never, based on the money it is about to make. A reader whos been in touch with me over a period of time wrote in saying he was very disappointed with my Humshakals review because of the mismatch between my review and the collective opinion of the masses. Thats just the thing. It is not my job to assess collective opinion. My job is to watch the film on its own terms and see where I go with it. You like my opinion, come along for the ride. If not, hey, step off. The world is still going to be round.
Once and for all, dear viewers, I do not review the market. I review the film.