Amit Khanna | April 24
Somewhere in the post World War II era of print were created two distinct approaches: first and more popular was the film reviewer and the other the film critic. By and large film reviews are what appear in newspapers and magazines, radio and TV and of course now online. A recent phenomenon is social media reviews; some even typed from inside a cinema while still watching the film. Reviewers generally follow a set pattern—Give a gist of the plot (nowadays with spoiler alerts), talk broadly about the main players’ performance, make broad comments about the screenplay, cinematography, music, production design, etc. There is usually a reference to direction. Often the reputation of the creative professionals and artistes colour the review. A trend started by American publications in the late 1940s of awarding stars based on some arbitrary methodology caught on in India as well. Even now the so called ‘serious’ film critics dispense stars as some sort of personal dole.
Any criticism of artistic work is subjective and there will always be personal biases. A peculiar hang up of Indian critics of all arts is that they become all knowing arbiters of aesthetics, form and content even when their knowledge is based on a casual read of a few books and articles. Merely watching films in film festivals or week after week in cinemas and cosying up to a select group in the art circuit in media does not give anyone the authority to pass unqualified judgement on all creative efforts. Interestingly most of these purveyors of good cinema gladly land up at a star’s house for an exclusive interview (stars sell, or so say their bosses) and do puff pieces on successful film makers.
Cinema in Kashmir
Gautam Kaul | Mar 15
Cinema came to Kashmir around 1932, on demand from the resident British families who would drive up from Sialkot, Multan, and other cantonments, for the summer season. The British also decided to locate a big cantonment in the suburb of Srinagar town to watch over the doings of the Maharaja of Kashmir, whom they never trusted…
…Cinema screenings in the Valley closed down totally by 1992… The charm of social gatherings to see films had disappeared. The more enterprising ones began to hire taxis to travel to Jammu and Udhampur to see their favourite films. Women would occasionally hire a busload of their friends for such outings.
The politics of the selfie
MK Raghavendra | Mar 15
The selfie’s most obvious cultural precursor was the personal or family photograph. An aspect noted about the family photograph was that its visual quality did not matter. What was important was who took it, on what occasion and when; what people felt about the pictures was much more important than what they ‘meant’ individually. It was equally important that the pictures were shown to other people who could use them to picture events they were not present at, thus situating themselves within a social continuum of some sort.
Andhadhun: Suspense and Character Subjectivity
MK Raghavendra | Mar 26
Fiction films of the world use three elements that combine to produce ‘cinema’ – objective reality, authorial subjectivity, which is in the nature of distortions to demarcate the real from the director’s subjective take on it, i.e.: the exercising of his or her powers of expression. Lastly, there is the notion of character subjectivity and this is the element needed to be used in abundance to create suspense. Suspense depends on knowledge of events being held by some and not by others.
In Defense of the Dramatic
Saurabh Turakhia | May 21
Stories narrated in a dramatic manner attract and engage the masses, especially those from the lower strata whose daily lives are filled with struggle. ‘Masala,’ ‘escapist fare’ offers them nostalgia, inspiration, strength and hope. For, the cinema crafted for them is kinder than their unchanging reality. This causal relationship between income class and preference for movies is rooted in the fundamental human needs.
Thus, in the super-hit Manmohan Desai films of the late 70s and early 80s—Amar Akbar Anthony, Suhaag, Mard, Coolie—Amitabh Bachchan as the ‘angry young man’ /all-powerful protagonist fought against the odds and always emerged the victor. In the era prior to that, the hero’s primary on-screen duty was to practice virtue and stay kind in spite of all the atrocities that he faced. Raj Kapoor therefore won the hearts of his adversaries in Jis Desh Me Ganga Behti Hai with his simplicity and forgiveness.