'Uri' and 'The Accidental PM' proved one thing. Film criticism has stooped the lowest today

Both these films have been bitterly criticised. But if 'Padmaavat' could enjoy what many called 'creative licence', what took that licence away from these two films?

 |  3-minute read |   19-01-2019
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Forget judging a film by its poster or the trailer, because the latest sign of genius is to convincingly critique a film solely based on the politics around it.

The first few weeks of 2019 saw two such instances, where the manner in which many mainstream film critics dissected Uri: The Surgical Strike and The Accidental Prime Minister seemed to display their preference for a certain kind of cinema and prejudice towards a particular ideology which, in the name of freedom of expression, is fine and welcome.

uri-inside_011819064001.jpgWhy can't we be open-minded about films — and premises — we don't personally agree with? (Picture: Uri poster)

Celluloid bias

What was telling was the manner in which this showcased an abject lack of initiative to be open to cinema that did not ring true with these film critics' thoughts.

The attempt to broadbrush the so-called ‘right wing’ narrative from the word go, without pondering over the finer details, which some of them would have you believe are inherently missing in both the films (more on that later), is reminiscent of a scene from an old Marlon Brando film, The Wild One.

Brando plays Johnny Strabler, leader of a motorcycle gang that holds an entire town to ransom.

When asked what he was rebelling against, Johnny replies — “Whaddaya got?”

We have come a long way from the time of ‘must-read’ film critics whose opinions could spur conversations.

The same can be said about a large chunk of films being made today.

The mainstream film is now more a product of the marketing department than the filmmaker — does it really matter then that critics across every major publication and TV channel raise their fingers to the camera to tell you how many stars they are going to award the latest release?

accidental-pm_011819064012.jpgRequesting cinema critics, beyond political ideologies, to please be fair! (Picture: Still from The Accidental Prime Minister)

Most critics abhor censorship, fight for creative licence, unearth new talent and find hidden gems amidst the rut, but only when it meets certain parameters — theirs.

During the release of Padmaavat, nearly every critic batted for its creative licence on the basis that Hindi films were nonsensical and entertainment-driven.

But the same bunch suddenly (re)discovers a film’s potential to influence the audiences from a sociopolitical perspective. Is this why they are calling The Accidental Prime Minister, based on a book published four years ago, a propaganda film?

Or that Uri: The Surgical Strike, a slick military film depicting a real-life operation, is being brushed off as a pointless celebration and called self-laudatory?

book_011819064024.jpgWhy question the movie — but not the book? (Picture: Poster of The Accidental Prime Minister)

Art has a voice

A 1995 study by a Stanford University psychologist observed that Oliver Stone’s JFK ‘doubled the level of anger’ among viewers after they watched it.

Similarly, The Cider House Rules and The Day After Tomorrow changed viewers’ stand on legalised abortion in the case of incest and climate change respectively.

If films can affect the audience, critics too have extraordinary powers.

Or, at least, they used to have them.

In the 1960s, when Andrew Sarris of The Village Voice and Pauline Kael of The New Yorker magazine reviewed films, their words mattered.

In fact, Martin Scorsese felt that had it not been for Sarris’ writing, many amongst his generation would continue to believe that only European cinema counted. It was Sarris who championed and transformed Orson Welles, John Ford, Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock — whom purists had dismissed as mere “commercial” filmmakers — into the pantheon of all-time greats.

padmaa_011819064053.jpgHow come 'creative licence' looks like this. And everything else is 'propaganda'? (Picture: Still from Padmaavat)

Overly critical?

Many studies suggest that movies can really change someone’s political views — and if that is the case, how come critics or social observers, and the media in general, have different parameters while talking about films?

Is this not more than indicative of a skewed perspective?

What gives away the bias is accusing The Accidental Prime Minister as predisposed, instead of questioning the book that inspired it.

It is befuddling that some critics even choose to not review certain films or refuse to rate if they are not up to their mark.

Some eyes, unfortunately, see only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.

Fortunately, the audience doesn’t care for the critics; at least, not beyond a point.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also Read: Why I think the BJP is right in backing Anupam Kher and 'The Accidental Prime Minister'

Writer

Gautam Chintamani Gautam Chintamani @gchintamani

Cinephile, observer of society and technology and author of the of Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna.

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