My Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘Cinema

I grew up predominantly in the 90’s. My early tryst with movie reviews were through newspapers. We lived in Chennai and Hindu’s Friday feature was the only way to get a movie review at least till mid-90’s before satellite TV took over. Even though there were movie reviews in print in the 80’s & 90’s people went to the theatres solely based on either the cast or the director. Tamil cinema is one of the few industries where directors have the same pull as the actors. For example in 70’s & 80’s K Balachander, Mahendran, Balu Mahendra & Barathiraja had their own following and people will flock to theatres just to see their films. Even when movie reviews were prevalent in the print media in the 80’s word of mouth was still the preferred way of people finding out about the quality of a movie.

For example when a Rajini film released no one cared about reviews, you will see people standing in long queues to watch a film. Same with Kamal Hassan and other big stars. Once the first few shows were over, the audience talk will what will decide the fate of a film. Things have changed drastically over the past decade and with the advent of social media reviews are almost instant. While the audience post their reviews on Twitter while watching the film, there are 100’s of YouTube channels reviewing the movies as well. To be frank I have lots of respect for people who have their own YouTube channels. It takes courage to put yourself out there and talk about anything. There are a few creative channels while most of them are either reaction channels or movie review channels.

There are a few professional ones working for famous publications while others who have garnered subscribers through their content. I have no way of knowing credentials of any of these so called “Film experts” by just looking at their content though. It is very important for anyone who is reaching out to a large audience to understand that movie reviews are basically personal opinions. Something the experts these days seem to have forgotten. The popularity of their channel or the subscribers they have seems to have completely gotten to their head which makes for some cringe movie reviews. As a consumer of such reviews, the only thing I want to see is what the reviewer thinks about the film, what he/she likes or dislikes about the movie. I am not there to see some agenda driven rant or the reviewers trying to show off their knowledge of film making. As a common man I care a damn about some of the content of the reviews as it does not matter to me.

Also as a reviewer you need to steer clear of generalising. Everyone has the right to say they don’t like the movie but they cannot be under the illusion that they speak for others. The reason these “experts” have a huge following is because people actually respect their opinions. When that happens it also becomes the responsibility of the reviewers to stay balanced when they review the movies. Using their popularity to further their agenda or someone else’s agenda isn’t very ethical and that is the reason I steer clear of few of these channels these days.

The other irritating part about these YouTube channels is that they go looking for controversy as soon as some update on a movies comes about. A film releases it’s first single or a look or a teaser they immediately go on the streets with a mic and a camera asking people on the streets their review. Reviewing a movie is a tough art and being balanced is even tougher. I have hardly seen a few reviewers who give their opinion and let the audience make a call whether they would like to watch a film. That’s how it should be as trying to influence the audience is not why you review a movie.

The one thing everyone needs to understand is that there is nothing called a perfect film. A movie which is perfect for someone might not be for someone else. A film succeeds because there is something which keeps the viewers entertained throughout its runtime. That is exactly what the audience wants. Most of the reviews these days feel like they come right out of a film school. While it is good to show off your knowledge of film making, I feel that should be in a separate video and not in the review itself.

The biggest disappointment for me though is that while technology wise we have come a long way, the quality of movie critics has fallen in recent times. Things aren’t going to change much as in this age of competition people are ready to present controversial content to gather more views and subscribers. When that is what these channels aim for, you cannot expect them to give quality content to the viewers. The sad part is that the viewers also have gotten used to these substandard and agenda driven reviews that they seem to think that this is the norm. I have stopped watching majority of the review channels and only follow a few who I think try to provide balanced take on a film and leave rest to the viewers.

What do you think about movie reviews these days? Do you think they provide you with balanced views on a film? Or do you think they try to push their agenda on their viewers?

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, so I have seen both the Doordarshan times as well as the satellite television boom in the mid-90’s. Before Satellite television came to India in the early 90’s movie stars were extremely elusive to the fans. They were like this larger than life hero figures in the mind of the fans who only appeared in films. In those times this actually helped a lot with success of films for these stars. This is how the star culture was formed. Fans who do not see their heroes other than on movie screen or posters rushed to theatres to watch them on the big screen.

In a way Tamizh cinema still has that star value. The elusive nature of the Tamizh stars has always worked in their favour. You would normally not see Rajinikanth, Vijay, Ajith or any major superstar making too many public appearances. This surely has helped them to maintain that culture which we see in some of the next generation actors as well. This means that most of the movies in Tamizh cinema comes with little or zero promotions, especially the big star films. For example Vijay’s interview for Beast earlier this year was his first in years but again you can say that he at least appears for audio release functions.

This lacklustre promotions from the stars has trickled down to the female leads and the supporting cast as well in Tamizh cinema. In recent times we have seen majority of the cast not being present for any promotions of a film. For example “Vikram”, the industries biggest hit this year had no promotions from any of the cast except for Kamal Hassan, Naren and Gayathrie. Recently Aatharva’s “Kuruthi Aatam” released after lots of struggle but again except for the hero and the director, none of the others were involved in any promotions for the film.

The biggest issue though hampering Tamizh film industry is that the release of a film is unknown to anyone at most of the times. The director of “Kuruthi Aatam” said in an interview that he just knew a week before that his film is going to release. We see a trailer released for a film and hope it will release in the near future but we end up seeing the movie a year or two later in theatres. This also causes issues for the cast to make themselves available for promotions. I understand that getting screens and taking the movies to the audience has become a huge problem in the industry but again the makers are making it difficult for their movies to succeed if there isn’t enough time to market their films. You might have a great product but if the audience don’t know about it, they are not going to come and see it. This is the era of OTT and you need to reach the audience big time if you want them to leave their home to watch a film. The big star films are fine as the fans will come in huge numbers just by watching a good trailer, but again that is not true for smaller films.

The other elephant in the room for Tamizh cinema is the Pan-Indian films. If we look in the past, Tamizh film industry was kind of the pioneers for Pan-India success. Manirathnam had Roja and Bombay and then we had Shankar’s Indian, Robot & 2.0 all being successful ventures all through the country. The biggest thing Tamizh movie makers need to learn now is that not all films are going to be successful when released through the country. The recent success of Telugu & Kannada cinema has taught us that there are certain type of films which appeals to the Hindi speaking public.

The Tamizh actors are extremely lucky as they have formed a great market in Southern states especially in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh & Telangana but that’s not the case with Hindi audience. Yeah some percentage of the population knows some of the Tamizh actors through their dubbed films on TV but again that is not going to help sell the films there. The first thing is the content. It is very important as to what movies we are dubbing in Hindi language. The kind of cinema which would mostly work is Big mass masala films like Bahubali 1 & 2, Pushpa & KGF or Movies about our Indian culture like Karthikeya 2 or Nationalistic films well made like RRR. The second most important factor is promotions. People might say that Nikhil did not promote Karthikeya 2 nor did Dulqar for Sita Ramam but again these films did great in the Hindi market.

The reason for the same is that Telugu cinema has created a lot of goodwill with the Hindi audience. They have released the right kind of films with the right kind of promotions which has made the audience there to take notice of any film which comes from that industry. This is what Tamizh cinema has failed to do in the last few years. We are thinking like in the 90’s when Roja, Bombay, Indian succeeded we can just dub a film and release a trailer 10 days before the release and that will bring the audience to the theatre. It does not work that way now. In the 90’s before Satellite channels, just movie posters were enough to sell a film to the audience and if released at the right time people used to come to theatres. They did not have the alternatives they have now in terms of OTT or TV which meant that they had to look at cinemas for entertainment.

Now in this era where marketing and promotions are crucial just dubbing a film and releasing it in any language isn’t going to work. Tamizh cinema also has this very poor trend of releasing movie trailers just a week or 2 before the actual movie release giving the actors just about 6-7 days to do the promotions. That may work in Tamil Nadu but will not work in rest of the country. For example “Naane Varuven” movie touted to release on the 29th of September just saw a teaser release on the 15th of the same month. That is ridiculous but again Dhanush’s popularity means that the audience will make it to the theatres despite no promotions.

In the past 2 years we just dubbed Master, Valimai, Beast etc in Hindi and released them in theatres without any promotions. Most of the Hindi audience don’t even know what these films are, so you cannot expect them to come to theatres. For Vikram, Kamal tried his best but again the time for promotions was very less and he was the only one doing the same. If Tamizh cinema are really serious about going Pan-India with their films, they need to take a leaf out of Telugu and Kannada industry. They need to see how they promoted their films over the past few years and how they have made a market for themselves all over the country. I think the problem lies with the producers who want the film to go Pan-India but again cannot convince the actors to actually promote the films

Tamizh cinema needs to wake up and realise that the method which has been working for them for decades in the state isn’t going to help them sell films to different audience across the country. The producers should stop advertising a film as Pan-India if the actors aren’t game to aggressively promote their films all over the country. If the actors are happy to just have their films release in southern states, so be it, the producers to make the films for just that audience. The next big film which is going Pan-India is Ponniyin Selvan (PS1). The director is Manirathnam who has had huge success across the country with his films. The film is just 2 weeks away from coming in theatres but we haven’t seen any promotional activities. The movie is clashing with one of the biggest Hindi films of this year, Vikram Vedha and the crew is still not taking this seriously it seems.

PS1 is a film which has a possibility of succeeding all over India. It has a theme of Indian history which Hindi audience like and with right amount of promotions this might become Tamizh cinema’s biggest hit of the year. The only good thing about the cast of PS1 is that everyone is game to promote the films. Vikram, Jeyam Ravi and Karthi always promote their films well which works in favour of the makers. The film will take a huge opening in Tamil Nadu as it is our history and we will for sure flock the theatres to watch the film but again the film needs to be promoted aggressively in other states for it to succeed. Manirathnam has done this in the past with his Hindi films so I am hoping that he understands what needs to be done to take his film to the nook and corner of the country.

To be frank if PS1 fails in Hindi, I don’t think we have any chance of getting a successful Pan-Indian film in the future from our industry. The film has the right content and the right actors to go all out to take the film to the audience, so if this fails that means it will be on the makers to not give enough time for marketing. The good thing is that the movie stars Aishwarya Rai in an important role which means that there will be promotions at least in Mumbai but I don’t think that will be enough. If PS1 succeeds it might give a template to other makers from Tamizh cinema as to how to promote films which they seem to not aware of due to the no-marketing culture in the industry. The stars need to wake up and smell the coffee. They get paid ridiculous amount of money to act in a film and I feel they need to make an effort to help out the producers if they want to go Pan-India with the content.

The recently concluded producer’s council elections in Kollywood was laced with lots of controversies. Like the Nadigar Sangam elections actor Vishal was in the midst of the action surrounding the election. This article is not about the elections and let me conclude by saying that Vishal was elected as the president at the end of it all. The topic I wanted to touch was the press conference the new members of the council had after the win. Vishal who is the president requested the online reviewers to postpone their reviews by few days to help the movie industry.

It was an odd request to be frank. In this day and age, asking few YouTube reviewers to postpone their reviews isn’t going to stop people from voicing their opinions on social media. If Vishal and the new members think that things can be returned back to the olden days with the reviews being postponed, they are living in a dreamland. Let us for example take 90’s as a case study. I am not a movie historian and don’t have statistics but from my experience (Since that’s the decade I am more aware of), there weren’t so many movies releasing every week. We used to wait for big festivals like Pongal, Tamil New Year and Diwali to see big star movies. Only during such big festivals we used to see multiple movies release at one go. Now coming back to the current decade, there are 3-4 movies release every week. It is even hard to keep track of what the movies are and who is acting in it.

The producer’s council should first regulate the amount of movies being made and make sure that the movie they are producing has decent content. Releasing 200+ movies in a year is not going to help the industry. Some movies which release are so amateurish that it is hard to sit through. New producers wanting to enter the industry need to be educated as to how to choose a script before investing a huge sum of money. It is always easy place a blame on a soft target such as YouTube reviewers and call them as a reason for decreasing audience in the theatres but the truth is far from it.

Reviews are personal opinions, people are free to express their opinion in any platform they want. They are the people who go and spend money to watch the film. It’s not like all films are ripped apart, movies like Managaram, 8 thottakal, Bahubali, Aandavan Kattalai, Power Pandi, Pizza, NPNK etc. all got overwhelmingly positive responses from the reviewers. This is the age of good content and if the industry is producing mediocre content, they cannot cry about decreasing audience. I am not talking about piracy here, which is for a completely different topic. People are going to look for review before watching films and that is going to continue. No one is going to stop that. Taking a family of four to the theatre is an expensive ordeal. People would want to make sure that the expense is worthwhile. When we go to a store, the first thing we do before buying a product is to look for reviews. If majority of the users of the product have given positive reviews people purchase that product. In the age of digital media, you are never going to fight that.

If the content is good most of the reviews are going to be favourable. People do look at multiple reviews before making a call and if a movie is good not everyone is going to bad mouth a film. The producers need to get together and think about what they are producing and what content is being screened to the public. If you want people to watch films, reduce the number of movies being produced, produce good content, educate new producers to invest smartly and give the films enough time to publicize their content before release. These would some of the solutions to get the audience to the theatres. By asking reviewers to postpone their reviews, you are basically saying that even if the movie is bad, since we invested, let the people spend the money like they did in the 80’s and 90’s before they found out that the content was horrible. Sorry Vishal, that is not a solution and audience are never going to fall for that.

I posted this 3 years back and it seems like this issue has resurfaced again. It is funny how our celebrities can do anything to be in the news.

My Thoughts

No news has grabbed the headlines in the past few days more than Shahrukh’s detention at the US airport. Even swine flu had to take a back seat on the Indian media. Was the Indian superstar making a huge deal of the incident to promote his upcoming movie which is based on the same theme? May be, but Shahrukh has denied such claims. Yeah it was bad that Shahrukh was detained at the Airport for couple of hours but it’s not a National disaster. It was funny when a famous Bollywood actress claimed that Shahrukh is a “World” figure and should not have gone through such treatment.

The above statement is all that is wrong in India. If she had said something like any Indian should not be subjected to such treatment based on his religion or race, I would have had more respect for her sentiments but that was…

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This is not something we get to write that often. The Indian film industry is synonymous with Bollywood aka Hindi film industry and South films hardly get the recognition. 2011 in a way broke that trend and it will be fair to say that Southern Industries ruled this year. Not only did the south films (Malayalam and Tamil) dominate the National awards earlier this year but the Bollywood box office was dominated by southern remakes. It was a year when the Southern Industries got their day under the sun in India.

As far as Tamil cinema goes it was yet another great year. It was the continuation of the good work which started in 2010 and carried over to 2011. The year 2011 is when the Tamil cinema broke the language barriers and reached to nook and corner of the vast country. The year which began with Tamil cinema dominating the national awards along with Malayalam making it a very southern awards, ended with Dhanush’ s “Kolaveri Di” winning CNN international song of the year.

Dhanush was the year’s biggest star and he was part of couple of good movies this year. The biggest success of Tamil cinema this year has been the success of small movies such as “Engeyum Eppothum”. A movie which was Fox Star’s foray into Tamil cinema, sans top stars and with a new director at the helm was a super hit. Appreciation of good scripts and attempts by the audience has always been the success of Tamil cinema which was again in view in 2011.

This year had releases from Suriya, Dhanush, Ajith, Vikram and Vijay. This year also saw Ajith take over a bad guy role and pulling it off with great panache. Vijay shifted his path from masala genre and signed movies with big directors. Suriya and Dhanush once again confirmed their status as good actors. This year also marked some path breaking movies such as “Aaranya Kaandam”. A movie which received praise from all quarters was a great addition to the gangster genre. The movie did rounds in the International film festivals and won some awards.

Even though some great movies were made this year and some remakes were extremely successful in other languages, this year belonged to Kolaveri Di. The song broke the language barrier to be accepted by all the music lovers.

South cinema comprises of some of the best talents in the country and makes some wonderful movies and this year was really a testament to that fact. Hindi blockbusters like Bodyguard, ready, Singham and Force were all south remakes. The year 2012 promises to be a fine one for Tamil cinema and hopefully will have some great movies. As 2011 comes to an end, here is wishing a great 2012 for Tamil cinema and its audience.

Ajith Kumar's decision to take a break from movies to concentrate on racing is a bold move

Actor Ajith Kumar recently decided to pursue his dream of racing and is currently participating in the Formula two world championship. He declared that he is going to take racing little bit more seriously starting this year. Well to be frank that’s a bold decision. We all know that he tried his hand few years back and met with some success in the same but was back with the movies after that. I was reading some comments by few readers on a popular website who were ridiculing his decision and wishing him a failure in his endeavor. This shows how grown up these people are. It’s easy to sit in front of a computer and type away on your keyboard and criticize someone’s effort to be different.

All of us know that moving out of your comfort zone is not that easy. Ajith Kumar is a super star in Tamil cinema. He has his own fan following and supporters. He is a big name in the industry, so it would have been easier for him just sit back and go through the motions like most of us do in our respective fields. But he has decided to be different and is following his passion for racing. How many of us have the guts to do the same? How many of us have the courage to come out of our cozy jobs to follow our interests and passion? The answer would be a grand zero.

But we will make fun of someone who does, as it’s easier to criticize somebody who dares to be different. We have certain happiness in declaring someone a failure without even appreciating the effort that individual has put in. We have been taught from our childhood that if someone doesn’t win in something he is a failure and we grandly follow that yardstick in every field. As far as I am concerned there are few things which go beyond success and winning.

Harsha Bhogle, one of the best sports presenters in the world was a graduate from the reputed Indian Institute of Management. He did not end up in a stereotypical management job as most of the guys doing MBA end up in; instead he followed his passion with sports journalism and presenting. He loved cricket and he followed his interests.

Not a lot of us get to follow our dreams and interests. We are stuck in a typical 9-5 job, uninterested but keep doing it for the sake of our family. When someone dares to be different, we need not encourage them but can be without ridiculing their efforts. Ajith is just an example I took to drive home the point. Anyone who can leave their comfort zone has to be extremely courageous. Ajith surely is doing that right now.

Congrats to him for following his dream and hope that he has a wonderful season in Formula two this year.

Shahrukh Khan was detained at the US Airport for 2 hrs for interrogation

Shahrukh Khan was detained at the US Airport for 2 hrs for interrogation

No news has grabbed the headlines in the past few days more than Shahrukh’s detention at the US airport. Even swine flu had to take a back seat on the Indian media. Was the Indian superstar making a huge deal of the incident to promote his upcoming movie which is based on the same theme? May be, but Shahrukh has denied such claims. Yeah it was bad that Shahrukh was detained at the Airport for couple of hours but it’s not a National disaster. It was funny when a famous Bollywood actress claimed that Shahrukh is a “World” figure and should not have gone through such treatment.

The above statement is all that is wrong in India. If she had said something like any Indian should not be subjected to such treatment based on his religion or race, I would have had more respect for her sentiments but that was not what she meant. There were lots of reactions from Bollywood after the incident which only showed arrogance on their part. I know that there are millions of Indians who go through such hell everyday around the world and none of us complain. Maybe we should, but who will listen? If I had been detained at the Airport for any reason, it would have been difficult for me to even get hold of our Indian consulate.

The VIP, VVIP, VVVVIP etc culture in India is sickening. In know that the Indians are now used to that culture but why do you expect the same treatment in a foreign country. The comparison with Brad Pitt was another dumb statement by yet another Bollywood bigwig. If the Indians treat Hollywood superstars differently then it’s our problem and the US immigration should not be blamed for that. The Indian security check is a joke and lots of Americans (not only Brad Pitt) are let through without even being checked. The problem with this incident is that no one has spoken on behalf of the entire Indian community who undergo such checks and interrogations every other day, it’s all about one superstar detained for 2 hours for the first time in his life.

Since becoming a superstar in Indian cinema, he was made to feel human for the first time which the star did not like. Now the stars should realize the predicament of common Indian who goes through such scrutiny everywhere in the world. If Dr. Abdul Kalam can be stopped at the Airport then why not Shahrukh? Is Shahrukh bigger than our former President? Our defense minister had to go through the same problems, so is our Bollywood superstar bigger than the above two National leaders? No he is not, at least not for me.

Yeah I know that this is not an ideal scenario and discrimination based on caste, Religion and race has to be questioned but why only when a high profile star is detained. What about the common Indian man? I guess it’s okay that our over the top superstar was brought down to earth for couple of hours, I don’t care if that happened. Nothing is going to change here. Even if the US immigration apologizes for their act, Indians are still going to face these checks, so why worry so much. The incident is done and dusted and Bollywood has to realize that this is not India and the immigration officers across the world don’t recognize Shahrukh Khan.

Couple of days back there was a news flash which said actor Raghuvaran is no more. I was shocked at the news as there were no indication of his bad health. He was a fine actor with a wide variety of roles in Tamil cinema especially.

His best work includes movies like Puriyatha Puthir, Baasha, Mughavari, Run etc. He had his own style of acting and brought believability to the roles he played. Who can forget the role of a suspicious husband in Puriyatha Puthir or the Mark Anthony of Baasha. Whatever may be the character he played he always brought great value to the roles with his unique stlye of acting and dialogue delivery. His role as Madhavan’s brother-in-law in Run showed that he had great comic timing too and is one of my favorites of his performances.

He was and will remain one of the most versatile character artist in Tamil Cinema. He will be missed for sure.


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