Film critic Anna Vetticad trolled for her Baahubali 2 review shows ugly face of India's intolerance
This is just shameful.
- Total Shares
She might have won one of the most prestigious awards in journalism in India, the Ramnath Goenka award, for her wonderfully insightful and scathing analysis of a “romantic song sequence” in Baahubali: The Beginning, but that doesn’t stop angry, anonymous virtual goblins from descending on Anna MM Vetticad like a swarm of strange, carnivorous, stinging bees.
The eminent film critic, known for her brilliant feminist sociocultural and political dissections of seemingly harmless cinematic extravaganzas, particularly something as lavish and as ambitiously scaled as the Baahubali series, has once again become the target of vicious trolling.
Obviously, because her review of SS Rajamouli’s star-studded Baahubali: The Conclusion isn’t as rose-tinted as the crazed fans would want it to be. In fact, the headline of Vetticad’s review is this: “Cocktail of grand stunts, visuals, terrible acting, closeted conservatism”.
Now, from the point of view of a cultural critic, this might seem run-of-the-mill, just a good hand doing her job ably and not viewing a purported filmic grandiloquence with plugged-in awe, or being just too taken in by the epic sets, gigantic box-office predictions, larger-than-life characters and the whole mythopoeia aimed at the crossover culture of 21st century multiplex theatre-going.
Anna MM Vetticad. [Photo: Firstpost]
Vetticad minces no words when she says, “As with the opening film, this one too is an Amar Chitra Katha-style blend of mythological references and palace intrigue laid out on a vast canvas of visual grandeur.”
She also raises eyebrows at “Mahishmati’s plastic facade and those painfully obvious CGI beasts”, referring to the fantastic creatures and quite a few elephants that we see in the film. While she misses the mesmerising beauty of the waterfall scene in the first instalment, she does say that the SS Rajamouli extravaganza does dish out “lavish interiors and innovative stunts”.
In all, it’s not at all a negative review from a critic as exacting and as brilliantly attentive to detail as Vetticad. A 2.5/5 rating from her isn’t half as bad, as we’re told to anyway suspend our disbelief willing, sit back and just enjoy the rollercoaster ride of this well-shot, cinematographically transporting film.
So when visibly upset and angry folks on Twitter ambush Vetticad because she dared call the film brimming with “closeted conservatism”, we very well realise that the “intolerance” debate in India is far from being buried.
Sample these obnoxious tweets, which Vetticad herself has screenshot and posted on her Twitter timeline.
It goes without saying that that antipathy directed at Vetticad’s review and that vitriol she’s facing online is largely along religious lines. Vetticad gets called a “Commie Chrislamist”, obvious a pejorative aimed at her minority religion and left-liberal socio-political affiliations.
As Vetticad says of a deleted tweet from a troll:
If this is the average film fan, there are no prizes for guessing which gallery our filmmakers are playing to. Sick. https://t.co/YIxDdpYgVr— Anna MM Vetticad (@annavetticad) April 28, 2017
It is indeed appalling but hardly unexpected that Vetticad’s on-the-spot examination of the movie is basically being panned because it’s being perceived to be “Hindu-phobic”. Which in itself is laughable because even though the cocktail of mythology and folksy storyline, set design, names of the various characters, names, props etc indicate a loosely Hindu setting, there’s no overt religious proclamation at any point in the movie.
In fact, in the first part of the Baahubali series, the scene between Kattappa and the emissary from Kabul shows a quasi-mercantile world of mercenary warriors who trade in arms and ammunitions, showcasing and selling their best weaponry across the world.
If anything, the message from the film is hardly a Hindu versus Islam/Abrahamic religious class of civilisations, but rather about palace intrigue and an almost Iliad/Mahabharata-like war to rescue/honour the central female protagonist.
There’s a kind of quasi-eclecticism in the Baahubali series that despite its pro-machismo and pro-blue blood syndrome, somehow elevates it above the infantile fanaticism that we see every day being played out in media debate and general public discourse.
But Vetticad getting viciously trolled for saying what she thinks is her rightful opinion on the movie brings us back to square one.
We are woefully reminded of the seriously messed up world of virtual assaulters, all out there to drown a cultural commentator, a literary critic, a filmmaker, an artist, a writer, an actor and virtually anyone with a mind of her own, in a stinking morass of half-baked, blatantly nasty and brutal trolling.