Saturday April 18, 2015

About the ‘qualified reviewers should review’ debate kick-started by Suhasini Maniratnam

Posted by Karthik

It all started with Suhasini Maniratnam’s ‘ask’ to the media present in O Kadhal Kanmani’s music success event. She urged the media, ‘Let Qualified people Alone Review OK Kanmani’. The video:

I found this rather naive. And said so, on a Deccan Chronicle piece too.

Naive because the communication spectrum has changed forever with social media. It’s not just for movies – everything you decide to buy, you do a Google search first and stumble on 2 kinds of opinions – one, controlled by the brand itself and second, by people. This second one was a closed loop earlier, didn’t have the power to travel beyond immediate word of mouth. With social media, this travels faster and completely topples controlled opinions from a few.

This is for everyone who makes a hotel decision based on Tripadvisor, an eating-out decision based on Zomato and a movie watching decision based on IMDb, their friends’ comments on Twitter and Facebook and everyone who buys a book based on user reviews from Amazon or Goodreads. Yes, this is about people having the right to say, what they want, when they want (a few hours of a music’s release and scene-by-scene reviews of films on Twitter?) and how they want it.

The line between an opinion and review does not exist anymore either. Every review too is an opinion; it just happened to be in a medium that came readily with a large reach. Now reach isn’t that big an issue and anybody with an internet connection can air an opinion on anything – earlier it was reach that accorded some respectability to opinions to crossover and become ‘reviews’.

Now that reach is within anyone’s reach (pun intended), does that make them only opinions and not reviews? Of course not – check Amazon, for book reviews from people like you and me. Check Tripadvisor for reviews on places, hotels from people like you and me. Check Zomato for reviews of restaurants from people like you and me. These are reviews too! Just like film reviews in IMDb, in mainstream publications like The Hindu and 140 character reviews on Twitter.

In context, someone sent me a link to Tamil Talkies’ movie reviews and asked me if these kind of ‘stupid reviewers’ (emphasis not mine) needed and isn’t that what Suhasini is trying to fight?

The point again – my or your personal opinion about Tamil Talkies’ reviews is immaterial to this debate. The basic premise is Tamil Talkies is a consumer and they have every right to talk about any movie they see, in whatever way they deem fit. You, as a viewer, have the right to see it, reject it, tell them they suck, or whatever. That’s the way it should work.

Film makers cannot ‘wish’ that such reviewers don’t review just because they don’t like it or they believe it affects a film’s collections. This is how the internet works, and this is how social media works.

Next, Bangalore Mirror poses the question about Suhasini’s statement to Mani Ratnam too and he offers a rather grounded response – typically him.


But, I need to add a point. Mani says, “every film-goer will have something to say about a film. But criticism shouldn’t provoke a reaction and that kind of culture is prevalent online.” Elsewhere, in the same paragraph, he says, “Cinema is public art”.

Now, let me connect the two. Why should only cinema (and music performances, theater etc.) be public art? Why can’t a tweet be considered a public art, put forth to provoke a reaction? Why can’t a blog post be public art shared to evoke a reaction? A Facebook post?

You can argue, ‘C’mon, where’s a film and where’s a piddly Facebook post?’. But are you arguing that it is infinitely more complex to produce a film than a Facebook post that they shouldn’t be considered ‘public art’? I’ll reverse the argument – because it is so easy to ‘create’ (anything, from a film to a pithy tweet), social media/internet has democratized the power to create and put on public things that evoke and provoke a reaction.

Else, why would someone want to conjure a sentence with a lot of thought, on Twitter (character constraints aside)? It is because they feel good when someone else appreciates the thought that has gone into constructing that sentence. I read Baradwaj Rangan’s reviews as much for sentence construction as I do for views and the points he picks to elaborate. A provocative online opinion on a movie is the other end of this spectrum – you and I may not like its provocative intent, but if there’s an audience for it, who are we to ask that to be stopped?

Pic courtesy: Medcitynews

Related reads:
“Where is the audience?”, asks leading Indian film maker!
Shutting up RJ Balaji – a shameful precedent from Tamil film industry
Resetting the reviewer-reader equation using internet
Will social media be Raavan’s Raavan?



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