In India, especially, there are no specialist movie reviewers. Movie reviews are usually done by journalists working in the entertainment department of a media house. I am not referring to any specific media house because the scenario is the same in most.
In India, it is also an open secret that most movie reviews are biased.
It is widely believed that some movie reviews are paid for, while some reviews get an extra star because the reviewer is close to the lead actor or actress. Sometimes, production houses get into a barter deal with a media house, and a good review is part of that deal. Then, there are reviewers who review a commercial Bollywood film with the sensibilities of an 'arthouse' critic.
In all, it is safe to say that most reviews do not accurately reflect a judgement. Hence, till date, in India, there is no film reviewer who is regarded as an authority.
But there's one type of film review that has emerged lately, and it is starkly different from all other types of film reviews — the ones guided by ideology.
This 'ideological' film review was unheard of even five years ago but has lately become a popular trend.
By this method, a reviewer promptly labels a film as 'pandering to the ruling party' or 'political propaganda'.
Interestingly, most films that released recently and became hits have been labelled as 'political propaganda' — they've mostly been either biopics or resting on actual incidents.
A film review is no place to make a political stand. (Source: YouTube screengrab)
These films are Uri: The Surgical Strike, Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi, The Accidental Prime Minister and Thackeray.
Some 'ideological' reviewers have gone to the extent of publicly announcing that they are 'deducting stars' because the film panders to a political ideology, while assuming that the audience agrees with them.
The audience has not only disagreed with them, but they have actually spent their money on tickets and watched these films anyway.
On the other hand, the decreasing page-views (you can simply look at the social media counter and hazard a guess if you don't want to use apps to measure views) are proof enough that these reviews are losing their readership.
What the general public dislike about such reviews is not the point, but bringing political ideology into film reviews is a potentially hazardous way of reviewing films. In some cases, a reviewer is so blinded by his or her own ideology (or dislike for political figures) that they have gone ahead and trashed a film solely because the film has shown a political party or a figure in a good light.
What is the result? The review appears stale and is instantly discarded by readers who don't agree with the reviewer.
There is so much of political commentary going on in India that no one needs another political commentator in the garb of a movie review.
In my opinion, there should be a debate on whether political commentary should be allowed on a webpage, masquerading as a movie review.
In fact, trends have shown that whenever a film is trashed as 'political propaganda' of the BJP or the RSS, people have thronged to the cinema halls to watch it.
All the films that I mentioned above didn't get a houseful opening initially, but the seats started filling up as the days rolled by. This means what worked in those films' favour is strong word-of-mouth — that must be quite the opposite to what the 'politically biased' reviewers have put out on the Internet.
There is another curious trend that I have found associated with these 'politically charged' reviews. A left-leaning website will invariably trash a film like Uri: The Surgical Strike or Manikarnika: The Queen Of Jhansi as propaganda films, while another right-leaning website will praise it. So, not only are reviewers using the film review section for a political comment, the publisher's political worldview has also started reflecting on the section.
As a result, what many miss these days are film reviewers who are ready to review a film on the basis of its story, script, visualisation, post-production and the likes — just like a commercial feature film should ideally be reviewed.
Alas, such film reviewers are on the brink of extinction.
Or are they extinct already?