Social Reviewers – Are they killing Cinema?
This week my facebook wall was filled with funny and sarcastic criticism about the recent Tamil movie Puli. There have been really creative meme’s posted which were definitely rib-tickling and became coffee table conversations and Whatsapp forwards. Equally there has been my friends in the movie industry who felt sad that a creation after so much of hard work is being criticised heavily without any regards to the effort the makers have put it.
In this week’s “Friday Fundas” I decided to share my opinions about the behavior and my humble thoughts on whether to fight it or use it to the strength.
Criticism is not a new phenomenon. It has been in practice for ages. It is like an opposition party in a democratic government. Where the critic’s opinions are targeted to shape the quality of the content. Recollecting one of literature discussions we were having one of them had raised a point that a creation doesn’t belong to the writer once it is published. And the readers have complete rights on expressing their views about it.
While on the other had the writers have a different take on it. Writer/Director Brad Bird has expressed his angst against the critics in the movie Ratatouille in the words of the character Anton Ego as below
“In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations, the new needs friends.”
And the following scene from the movie Birdman takes a hit at critics trying define what the artist needs to do
They are two sides of the same coin. One needs to exist for the existence of the other. They will shake hands and embrace each other when there is agreement and turn their backs to each other when there is disagreement.
Off late with the advent of social media the amount of criticism a works get has dramatically increased. When a movie is good it is heavily praised and when it is bad it is heavily trolled. In either case it definitely affects the performance of the movie in the theaters.
Social Media has become a necessary evil in promoting products. It has provided a great tool for the movie producers to reach their audience like never before. Compared to the era when weekly magazine articles were the only medium to promote the content now it has become much more easier to take the content to the audience to their personal mobile phones. Also they have the option to hear back from them. While this is powerful it also opens a pandora box of hearing non-favorable comments as well.
Assuming that the reviewers on the social media will become ethical and write responsibly is a wild goose chase. But they could be leveraged to the strength of the promotion. If the source content is good it will definitely get a majority of positive reviews than negative reviews. For instance movies like Kaaka muttai and Maya received very positive reviews which helped the movie while movies like Anjaan, Puli suffered from the negative reviews. More hype the movie creates before the release the more it is going to be reviewed. There is no secret formula for an optimum amount of promotion one could do.
Instead of spending too much energy on worrying about the reviews if the makers invest time in producing quality content then the chance of getting positive word is much more. Now one could argue that no one sets out to make a bad movie. But there certain patterns behind a movie that doesn’t work. One of the major pattern which I believe the Indian movies suffer is screen writing. In India most of the movies are being written and directed by the same person. This is a very diffcult job to do. Unless the director is very talented like Christopher Nolan, Tarantino, Anurag Kashyap, S.S Rajamouli or Vishal Bharadwaj who can write entertaining scripts and also direct good content the quality of the content suffers. In the Hollywood most of the movies have a well established writing department. Or the content is made from literature that is already published. It took Danny Boyle to create a movie based on the book Q&A and not for any Indian director. Spielberg has made movies based on books written by popular authors. His skill has been in directing movies and he does that well. This has enabled Spielberg to work on multiple projects simultaneously. Director Shankar and Maniratnam heavily relied on writers like Sujatha to create screenplay which worked well. Screenplay is the soul of the movie and if you have a great screenplay the movie would work. Increased production quality makes the movie more appealing to a wider level of audience. But if the screenplay is bad the movie would not work. I hope in the future we have the culture of directors more open to work on someone else’s script.
A good movie would work well with the audience and thereby attract more positive comments from people. There has been no movie which has worked for every one. There would be always lovers and haters for the movie. At the end of the day it matters whose count is larger.
Movie makers should stop worrying about the negative comments and concentrate on building a quality movie and believe in it, it will be healthy for Cinema.