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A Critic's Accountability

A friend wrote:

I fail to understand the over-critical tone about the bollywood movies (I assume you mean entire Indian film industry) compared to the european. It is not convincing to just go by a few examples on both sides and generalise this.

In general, I sound very critical of Indian movies and all-praise for non-Indian movies. It's not entirely true, though there is not denying that my revieiws and analyses are reflective of the present state of the world cinema. By the above sentence I mean that there are a few diamonds in the rough in the Indian scenario and there are junk foods available for the cinema eaters in Europe too and Hollywood in an amalgam of style and content, somewhere between the India and Europe.

If we were to discuss movies from every continent from a 10,000 feet perspective, a typical Bollywood discussion would feature songs, fights, romance, sentiments, sex, comedy and happy ending. An European discussion would feature story and presentation. A Hollywood discussion would feature style, content, grandeur, presentation, romance, comedy, sex, story... And by the very naming of our cinema industries after Hollywood (Kollywood, Tollywoood, Crapywood..) our film makers are explicitly telling that we are more concerned with the grandeur and technical aspects of the film, not on spending brain in the presentation or inventing a new structure or treating the audience to a higher level of cinematic experience.

If one were to wrap and roll the movie industries into a girl, this is how I would compare: The strength of the Indian girl is her visual beauty and her ability to be a feast to the viewers' eyes by presenting herself in fashionable costumes in every outing. I can look at her for a few minutes, but I cannot fall in love with her, because she doesn't appeal to my other senses (don't laugh Wink). Whereas a European girl is multidimensional - I can talk to her on various subjects, she has an intelligent sense of humour, she knows how to handle herself sensibly in tight corners, she is interesting even in boring situations. She appeals to my brain and heart. Now, because of these qualities, I find her beautiful, and I can fall in love with her.

We, as a nation have become hopelessly dependent of the visual element of the movie. We have different actors playing almost the same role and telling the same story, eventually evoking the same feeling in me. The last ten years have seen rapid advancements in the technical aspects of Indian cinema, but there are no leaps when it comes to storytelling. Story is the heart of the movie. Every person has a story and every person is different. There are people who understand this and make movies that reflect the everyday life of a man, the current state of the society and write dialogues the way you would speak to your wife or child or mother. And they are given the title 'art movie makers' and relegated to box-office bankruptcy.

We, as a nation have become hopelessly crazy after screen persona. They should be respected like artistes, not gods (this applies to Hollywood too!!). In Europe, a painter can be as popular as a soccer player who can be as popular as an actor. And none of these professionals can step into politics just like that and become a mayor or a governor. Just the fact that our film actors (not a popular director or producer) have popular political appeal implies how much we have elevated their chairs. When we stop worshipping these screen characters and give due respect to directors and scriptwriters, the situation will change.

Rajesh, there are many great Indian movies that I can compare with some of the best I've seen from other parts of the world. 'Micheal Madana Kama Rajan' is the best movie I've seen and it stands along with 'Schindler's List'. Apu trilogy by Satyajit Ray is meditative. Did you know that whenever film pundits discuss top ten filmmakers of all time, Ray is talked about. 'Bandit Queen' by Shekar Kapoor is super powerful. 'Kshana Kshanam' by Ram Gopal Varma is an intelligent jolly ride. 'Nayagan' by Maniratnam is an Indian masterpiece. I can go on... as I said before, there are diamonds in the rough here, probably 5% of the movies released every year. As a critic, I am accountable when it comes to pointing out where we stand in the international scene, or else I'd be failing in my duty.

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