Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Are movie critics totally out of touch with popular taste?

This is the question posed by veteran film critic Anupama Chopra in a recent issue of Open. She writes in her regular column for the magazine that this question struck her after she gave Salman Khan's Ready a two-star rating because "the craft was shoddy, the plot was incoherent and the jokes, cheerfully low-IQ. It was Hindi cinema at its laziest best". Afterwards, she says, she was soundly abused on Twitter by Salman fans. She continues:

Meanwhile, the film reportedly made over Rs 13 crore in India on its first Friday — the biggest non-festive opening for a Bollywood film.

Which made me wonder: are we critics totally out of touch with popular taste? After years of watching movies, do we evolve into curmudgeons who are unable to enjoy anything? What is the function and relevance of our reviews?

She tries to answer those questions by elaborating on the role of the reviewer but she admits there is a disconnect between viewers and reviewers:

Leading critics thought The Hangover 2 was a tired rehash of the first film — it grossed around $ 338 million globally. [At] least one leading critic — Peter Travers in Rolling Stone — described Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as a ‘giant turd’. It grossed over $700 million worldwide.  Or closer to home, most critics think that Anees Bazmee, the creator of Ready, No Problem and Thank You, is single-handedly lowering the bar in Bollywood, but that has never stopped audiences from flocking to theatres (refer to earlier grosses for Ready).

And then she rests her case by stating unequivocally that box office and quality are not necessarily linked. "My job is to be unconcerned with the former and consumed with the latter," she writes. "The rest is dross."

Every filmgoer should read this column to understand the angst of our serious movie critics. How depressing it must be to write for an audience that does not get it.


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