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View & re-view & review

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 😀

Screenshot 2020-07-27 at 14.34.50

Comments: 9

  • Amal Devasia July 28, 202012:43 pm

    Cinema should be a first hand experience in theatre,and yet we all wait for a review to decide if it’s worth that experience . Often people go to the theatre without a” blank slate”.

  • Harinair July 28, 20201:15 pm

    Felt happy to see your post after a while, awaiting your new film from you madam. watching a Malayalam movie in a theater without going through review is disastrous, unlike a Telugu or Bollywood movies which will have at least something to entertain. But your movies are like Padmarajan era, the actors on screen does not matter if you are there behind the screen. we have a guarantee that its going to be an entertainer. Awaiting your new projects….stay safe

  • riajogy July 28, 20202:11 pm

    Cinemawali on Youtube has done some of the most intricate film breakdowns in the recent past. She picks up movies which are not recent, hence most probably she has had more time to view and re-view it before making her videos.

  • Rupesh July 28, 20202:17 pm

    Greetings from Singapore,
    Outstanding Write Up, I truly believe your valuable insights on film reviews . Recently during lockdown managed to watch “Koode” which according to few of my friends is a slow movie , but I just loved each frame of the movie – It’s just superb , a true masterclass. You just need relaxed mind and time to watch such awesome movies.

    Ya, It depends who’s watching & how they are watching. Everybody has there own taste.

    I am a great fan of your works, I enjoyed all of your works. You pulls the very essence of Malayalam cinema by beautifully crafted cinema.

    I know that , I am not a good writer like you , but hope i can convey that all your works are Five stars *****- Highly Positive Reviews
    Keep Rocking

  • Ankitha Nambiar July 28, 20202:31 pm

    So true. The effort I take to make my bratty friends watch some movies fully with patience is herculean. I will definitely share this with them. Lots of love to you. ❤❤😊

  • Sheena Yusuf July 28, 20202:31 pm

    So true Anjali. I was listening to an interview of Sushant Singh Rajput where he said when critics watch movies to critique it VS watching it for the sake of the experience, the impact is totally different. I agree to that perspective. I feel when we watch something from presence, purely for the experience of it, and not for the purpose of anything, we see and feel much more. I do feel that many a good movies, as general public we might give a miss based on reviews we read about it in the first few days of release. The lockdown has indeed slowed our pace of anything and everything we do immensely that presence has started to creep.

  • Abilash Geetha Balan August 6, 202010:18 am

    Introducing SATYA a superhero from our future through sharing Stories online magazine. He has a lot to tell us.

  • Hameed August 7, 20206:40 am

    These days when we watch movies in a relaxed frame of mind we absorb more and more nuances.
    And your creations have whole lot of plums to pick. Love.

  • A B Ben August 19, 20203:47 pm

    வார்த்தைகள் தோற்குமிடத்தில் கண்ணீர் பேசும் – ஒரு மலையாள சினிமாவில் கேட்ட வசனம். இந்த நுட்பத்தில் சினிமாவை ஒரு விமர்சகர் அணுகுவது அவசியம். தன்னை அறிவாளியென்று பிரகடனப்படுத்த ஒரு சினிமா விமர்சனம் செய்வது ஒரு கருக்கலைப்பிற்கு ஒப்பாகும்.

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