Thursday, Oct 30, 2014

What’s a hit got to do with it

A reader wrote in saying he was ‘very disappointed’ because of the ‘mismatch’ between my review and the ‘collective opinion of the masses’. A reader wrote in saying he was ‘very disappointed’ because of the ‘mismatch’ between my review and the ‘collective opinion of the masses’.
Written by Shubhra Gupta | Posted: August 30, 2014 2:53 am

But it’s made 100 crore! And you gave it just one star!

Sure enough, Singham Returns, which your humble critic didn’t care for, has rapidly climbed to the Rs 100 crore-plus mark, according to its publicists. Before that, it was the execrable Humshakals that breached the barrier. And many such similar ones before these worthies.

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? I’m 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 don’t? You won’t have bragging rights. What if your friends see it before you do and talk about it at the Friday night bash? You’ll go “uh-huh, uh-huh”, curse yourself for not having anything to say. What if, horror, it makes a hundred crores, and you haven’t been part of that party? It’s called being left out. In the hyper-linked, hyper-connected times we live in, in which you read someone’s 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.

It’s not your fault. You are inundated by so much verbiage that there is no continued…

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