New Delhi, Oct 15 (IANS) The world has stopped taking film critics and their reviews seriously, but a filmmaker in Kerala, Mubeen Rauf, director of the film ‘Aromalinte Adyyathe Pranayam’, and the Kerala High Court think otherwise.
It is no secret that every actor and, at times, a filmmaker tries to get a positive review for his film. There used to be a time when an actor would dispatch his personal PR man with an envelope to each and every critic. All that they wanted was that the heading should be dedicated to him along with the picture that the review carried.
Something like ‘Rajesh Khanna steals the show’. The heroine’s PR man would follow soon with, probably, a heavier envelope, demanding that the headline be like ‘Heroine steals the show’!
Rather a tough call for a critic!
This was a myth the film industry lived with for a long time and it still does — that reviews can make or mar a film. But film folk are a vulnerable lot. They are insecure about a lot of things at the same time. As the industry created a star out of an actor, the insecurity bred more self-styled critics.
The strategy of critics changed. Instead of elaborating on the salient aspects of a film, they started summing up a film by giving them star ratings. What followed was the bidding for maximum stars a film got. Realising the potential, media barons got their marketing teams involved and turned these star ratings into a business enterprise!
An industry of independent filmmakers soon turned into filmmakers working for corporate houses. Deals were struck between marketing honchos of media houses and the corporate houses and a film was rated accordingly. No major corporate house backed a film that got less than three stars, however disastrous it may be. Strangely, the reviews do not seem to matter to the people in general. After all, how many people read reviews?
But, there were some stars who worried about what was written in the review. So instead of trusting a PR man, they started cultivating critics personally.
There was this lady critic with a price tag because she wrote for the so-called major print media. Her rate sheet read like this: Rs 5 lakh for a five-star review if you were a Khan and Rs 5 lakh for four stars if you were not one! It was a part of industry folklore. Certain stars also believed in striking a personal rapport with her, landing at her home and asking her to cook biryani! That demonstrated bonhomie!
Now, as things stand, no critic worth his name has a following. No critic knows a thing about filmmaking. Most of them review a film as part of their job. The stars and their PR machinery have yet to understand that.
They continue to crave for good reviews and the star ratings that come along with them. These reviews are collected and made into a media ad insertion! How vain can one get?
What is worse, with the advent of social media, just about everybody with a handle is now a film critic! They compare their rating with that of IMDb!
Coming back to filmmaker Mubin Rauf, who got the Kerala High Court to rule that film reviews should be published seven days after the release of a new movie!
Now that sounds like a judgment that is open to appeal, for anything in the public domain, be it a creative work like a painting, a book, or a film, can be the subject of critical analyses. I suppose this observation also infringes upon freedom of expression.
The other part of the judgment where the Court observes that bloggers and other self-styled critics demand money for positive reviews is right, but these demons are created by insecure filmmakers. They run after positive reviews from all and sundry.
That reviews by the media affect a film’s performance or that they help people decide whether to watch a film or not is a misconception that filmmakers and actors live with.
Critics in many mainstream print media outlets had this habit of pretending to be intellectuals. They ran down commercial mass entertainers and reserved their praise for films of makers such as Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar, Basu Bhattacharya and the rest of the NFDC kind. They found profound meaning in such films that even these makers did not intend to convey!
The only reviews that mattered to filmmakers were those of trade magazines. Their reviews did not reach the viewers so what was the problem? In those days, a film did not release simultaneously all over India.
A film first released in major cities and a negative trade paper review affected its business prospects to a great extent. In most cases, the readings of trade papers used to be on target and the cinema houses that planned to screen the film in the following weeks, offered terms accordingly.
The producers’ body, Indian Motion Pictures Producers Association (IMPPA), got the same idea that the Kerala Court has come up with now. They wanted the trade papers to review a film a week after its release!
Many exhibitors from across the country did not wait for a copy of the paper to reach them; instead, they called to find out about the reports. The trade papers would lose their very purpose if they reviewed a new film after a gap of one week.
This corny idea did not work and many film producers were against it. IMPPA even tried to impose a ban on advertising in one particular publication, ‘Trade Guide’. These papers had a limited circulation because they were subscribed to by film folk and the source of their revenue was advertisements from film folk.
This ban was imposed. It lasted for a few weeks till it was broken by none other than the IMPPA president, who issued the front page ad of his film ‘Thief Of Baghdad’ because, if you wanted to attract distributors from across the country, a trade paper was the only medium available. So much for bans!
Of what use is a court order when everyone on social media is a self-styled critic! Ultimately, what works is the word of mouth that makes or mars a film. As they say in the trade, it’s the box-office figures that speak for themselves.
National Cinema Day
The National Cinema Day has just come and gone, so it is time to look at the response to the advance booking (till the time I wrapped up this column) for this year’s event, which was celebrated October 13.
PVR-IMAX-Cinepolis cinemas, among them, sold 1.91 lakh tickets of ‘Fukrey 3’; 1.65 lakh of ‘Jawan’ and 1.66 lakh of ‘Mission Raniganj’ (the film’s makers plan to submit the film for the Oscars). None of these three are new releases, but the affordable admission rates seem to have drawn the viewers. The ticket rates were fixed at Rs 99 per person (against Rs 75 in 2022).
On top of all this, there is an added attraction over the weekend of watching Karan Johar’s first directorial venture, ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’. It will be screened in four shows at select cinemas at Rs 25 flat. Just like the good old days of reduced-rate matinee shows. Only this one will play all day long for a day. This is to celebrate 25 years of the film’s release.