It amazes me that we have received more reviews of our films in the last 4 months than ever before! The lockdown seems to have created the space for the audience to watch and rewatch films and write about them. In fact many seem to really dissect characters and films in so much detail that it will keep us filmmakers really on our toes!
It is such a contrast from the rushed reviews tweeted from the first show of the first day 🙂 Last year Apurva Asrani had written an interesting article where he explores how the process of film critique is affected by the social media hurry. Apurva Asrani is a National Award winning filmmaker, film editor and screenwriter who has a multimedia body of work in film, television and theatre. He is best known for editing films like Satya (1998) and Shahid (2013), and for writing the acclaimed human rights drama Aligarh (2016). Sharing here an extract from his article Has Digital killed the Movie Critic?
“Today everyone is a critic. The day a new film releases, patrons inside cinema halls play fastest finger first to ‘live tweet’ their reviews. So if the movie critic has to stay relevant, then he or she must have her review out early enough to avoid getting buried under the plethora of opinions that proliferate online. The critic must therefore clamour for an invite to a preview screening, often held just a day before the release, and then rush to the laptop to write a speedy review.
Did the critic have enough time to think about the film? Or get a chance to sleep over it, and wake up to a ‘settled’ opinion? Was the critic able to re-read and edit the piece to find a balanced view? In most cases, I would think not. And If anyone or anything suffers in this scenario—it is the film. A work of art that took years to conceive, write, shoot, edit and score becomes something that is judged within minutes of being watched.
When filmmaker Stanley Kubrick was asked if he ever learned anything about his work from film critics, he said “No. To see a film once and write a review is an absurdity. Yet very few critics ever see a film twice or write about films from a leisurely, thoughtful perspective. ”
Such leisurely thoughtful viewing seems to have happened through the Covid-19 lockdown and I have been so surprised by some of the keen observations in these lockdown reviews. It is like that missing ingredient – the ounce of time – has really changed the recipe, making it a richer and more sensitive experience for both sides.
While directing, there are things communicated between the director and actors which are not always articulated in words. There are last minute touches by the crew which sometimes inflame the screen with feeling. These instinctive bits are often the most honest moments and when a member of the audience picks up and writes about those moments, I cant tell you how much it moves me. It feels worth all that time and faith it took to put it together. It feels worth those extra takes. So thank you for your time and observation and for reassuring that the audience will someday find the plums we bury in our cakes.
I will be honest, when those quicksilver fingers so easily type out criticisms, that too affects us. But as Apurva has written, more than us, it affects the film. I see criticism as being part of our journey and it is such a learning to read detailed audience reviews and the animated discussions on informed forums like Cinema Paradiso. Some being really insightful and constructive. Most recently, I have been learning about film criticism from Mdm. Udaya Tara Nayar who was the editor of Screen for over twenty years. She had reviewed films like ‘Sholay’ and ‘Bobby’ when they released, and she stresses on the importance of understanding the medium and the filmmaking process to professionally critique a film. Shall write more about that interaction in a separate post.
I once overheard a friend say “I pay my money and I need its worth, if I am disappointed I will say so and say it loud.” Years later he dropped in to visit on a working film set. He came and spent half a day and as he left I saw he was a bit disappointed at how slow and unglamorous a film shoot is. He said “I’d rather watch it onscreen.” But since then I have noticed his biting tweets have assumed a gentler tone. 🙂 (Am sure he will call me when he reads this!)
According to the Rasa Theory from the Natya Shastra, when a world is created from within the artiste’s mana through bhava and the corresponding rasa is created within the audience; that is when communication is successful. When that happens the audience/ prekshaka attains sahridayata (oneness) with the artistes. Your thoughtful feedback tells us if that happened or not. So yes, please do keep viewing, re-viewing and reviewing. 🙂 Much Love. Stay safe.
P.S.: Sharing a funny Amazon review I found online 😀