BENGALURU:I first discovered film reviews in the year 2005. Trapped in a job that required me to play braindead for eight hours a day, I found film reviews fascinating. Till then, films for me were simply entertainment – frivolous, fluffy and fun. But here were people finding and discussing layers, nuances and subtexts in them. I reviewed my first film in 2007.
A few years later, I studied Journalism in my Masters and Film Studies was one of my favourite subjects. I would often think of the lives of film critics with envy – what a charmed life they led! You get paid to watch a film before everybody else. And then get paid to review the film for the masses. Your own small contribution to the great art form that is cinema.
I review films for a living now, and I am sorry to say that it’s far from the rosy world I had pictured it would be. Over the years, I have watched so many bad films that my brain has gone numb. The darkness of a cinema hall, that once filled me with joy and wonder now fill me with dread. While the rest of the world wakes up on a Friday rejuvenated in anticipation of the weekend, I have to rush to a cinema hall by 9 am.
There are two kinds of people who watch the first day first show of films – critics and fan clubs. I have to stand in line amidst fans who have come armed with flowers, coconuts, milk packets and ladoos. Sometimes, there is pooja and arati before the gates are opened. Once in, I am subjected to a plethora of cliches, so much that I cannot enjoy a film without thinking about its context, subtext and politics.
If I step out during the intermission to grab something to eat, I am offered coffee for `180 and two samosas for the price of two kidneys. I have made friends with other zombie film critics like myself. We stand together and sip on the government-mandated water and curse our lives. Gone are the days of enjoying a story on screen, I feel an urge to dissect and discuss everything I see.
Every year, about 1,600 films release in our country, so most weeks witness 2-3 releases per Friday. I need to scribble my notes, rush home, and crank out a review that needs to be published on an urgent basis. By the end of the day, I am too tired to do anything else for the rest of the weekend. These days, when I see audiences watching a movie, I look at them with envy. They can watch a film without any intellectual pressure. They can whistle and dance if they like the film, walk out if they hate it. All thanks to people like me, film critics who are taking one every week for the country. In that sense, film critics social servants of the highest order. We watch the bad films so that the country doesn’t have to. Someone needs to make a film on film critics. I’d gladly sit back and watch it, and never review it.
The author is a writer and comedian