I have been attempting to write this post for a long time, ever since I wrote one on how a few top entertainment journalists treat Bollywood PRs. Before that, I had written about how a few PRs and journalists control the entertainment news space in Bollywood.
So, I wrote about (a) powerful journalists who are on top of their game, (b) Powerful PRs who rule their fiefdom with equal elan (c) How, PRs who are not-so-powerful, are given a raw deal and how frustrating their day-to-day job is.
Obviously, there is one missing link that I didn’t touch upon – how some journalists who don’t belong to the top media houses – are treated by the top Bollywood PRs.
These are stories that most don’t talk about but if you ask around (specially the entertainment journos who represent online media), you will hear plenty of these. I was too subjected to third degree treatment when I was representing a website.
The brutal realization
I was a film critic at DNA for about two years before I decided to move out to be part of a website which was being re-launched with a new design and editorial policy.
Post the re-launch, the website was getting good traction among the internet audience and I was confident that I, as editor (news & entertainment), would be able contribute in making it the top entertainment website in the country.
Movie reviews usually get a lot of traction online and I used to get 10-15 K (even 30-35 K at times) hits for my reviews on an average. Naturally, I wanted to concentrate more on my movie reviews and wanted to upload a review at the earliest because the sooner a review is posted, the more hits it gets.
Being a part of the DNA movie review team for two years meant that I never had to ask a PR about a press preview.
The invite – either through an SMS or a mail – would reach me well in advance and most of the times, there would be a follow-up phone call from the PR to ensure my attendance.
There were times when we had to request a PR to postpone or prepone a press show because we didn’t have sufficient transit time between two shows. The requests were always accommodated promptly.
I soon figured out that being a film critic of a website and that of a newspaper were not the same.
One month down the line, I was texting some PRs about the location of the press shows. One more month and instances of PRs ‘forgetting’ to inform me about press previews were getting repeated with alarming regularity.
Three months into my job with the website, it became my job to find out where the press show was. After six months, I found my name struck off from the media list of most press shows.
I was told later that a PR’s preference is guided by their client’s preferences and most clients were only concerned about the reviews that appeared in prominent dailies. Websites didn’t matter to them.
Then one day an incident happened which completely threw me off gear. I felt humiliated in front of the entire press team and after that I vowed never to attend press shows unless I was invited for it.
‘Kindly get in the queue’
This press show was organised by a leading PR agency and as usual, I never had any information about it. Since, there was pressure to upload the review before other websites, I finally texted the head of the agency.
She immediately send me a message asking me to come for the press preview. As usual, I complained to her about how I was not receiving the invites properly. By that time, the complaint had become routine.
The short conversation on text messages soon ended with each other sending smileys and she assuring me that she would meet me at the multiplex the next evening.
Unfortunately, she was not there at the multiplex during the press show and I was told that she was busy supervising the premiere of the film.
Her bulky brother (who worked in the same agency) arrived with a large bunch of tickets half an hour before the press show. Immediately after he went around distributing the tickets to ‘prominent’ critics. Before giving them the tickets to each of them, he would politely ask, ‘How many tickets do you need?’
Some of the critics had brought their friends, boyfriends and girlfriends along with them. Most took two tickets but some, who were accompanied by their colleagues, even asked for six or seven.
Some people, who were doled out tickets generously, were not even film critics but reporters of prominent channels and newspapers who had just landed up to watch the film.
He then took his position near the food counter and we formed a queue to get our tickets. Before handing them over, he politely announced that everybody in the line would get only one ticket.
I stood in the queue patiently and waited for my turn. The dark, scruffy, forty-something gentleman with specs and a visible paunch asked me step aside, somewhat like a customs officer at the airport. Soon, three others joined me in the ‘step aside’ queue (two of them were women). Incidentally, all of us were from the online media.
Ten minutes later, everybody else had their ticket except the four of us. This PR was still clutching to a bunch of tickets.
The lady behind me got a little irritated and asked him again when she would be getting her tickets. This man rudely asked her to wait because “some more important people were coming for the show”.
Soon the gates opened and people started entering the audi. Some were hanging near the food counter to encash their free coupons for samosas.
I again politely approached him asking why I was being made to wait.
“I am expecting some important people and I have only 10 tickets. You will have to wait.”
“But the show has started. When they will arrive?”
“Now the trailers are running. You still have time. Why don’t you wait here?”
(He pointed to a corner. By the time everybody was listening to the conversation as he was very loud. I noticed a critic smirking over the treatment being meted out to me. One also came upto me and asked why I was not being allowed to enter.)
Then a few people from the production house arrived and were handed over the remaining tickets.
“All the tickets are over. Kindly wait till I get more. If I cannot accommodate you in this show. I will try to get you a ticket for tomorrow’s (general) show but I cannot promise anything now. Get in touch with me this evening and I can tell you whether I can arrange for a ticket.”
By that time I had enough and I sent a text message to the lady who headed the PR. I told her that I am returning from the press preview as the show had already begun and I was not being allowed in.
The bulky, short scruffy brother got a call next and promptly took out another set of tickets that he had been hiding in his pocket.
He finally gave a ticket to me.
Though I went inside the hall, I had already missed the first scene.
During the interval of the film, the guy came and said if I was enjoying the movie.
The sarcasm in his voice was still intact.
Two of the other three critics who were kept waiting with me had been sent back.
Shortlink -> http://wp.me/p3x1zT-ML First picture, purely for illustration purposes, taken from HERE Second picture, purely for illustration purposes, taken from HERE Third Picture, purely for illustration purposes, taken from HERE
This is commonstance for me now. At least you worked for a website. I have my own website, and I cannot even dream of getting press previews.
NB: You haven’t replied to my e-mails either. 🙂
please send me an email again. Haven’t got any mail from you.
You have tried to show how PR persons discriminate against journalists working for websites of lesser reputation. It’s unpleasant but true. But the question is – are you journalists any different from them? Don’t you ignore new actors? Don’t you journalists don’t even publish film reviews of small budget independent films?
Amit, I would like to differ with you on this note. As noted earlier, I run a small-big blog that I will not name here because I don’t want to troll. But as a small time Bollywood blogger, let me tell you that at least I, and every other small time Bollywood blogger that I know takes each and every information and anecdote about even the newest movies with great interest and give that release it’s due.
And yes, because of this dogged diligence, I have got into contacts with one PR that handles a multitude of actors and celebs. So… it’s all in the game man.
Roy, I fully agree with you that many small websites passionately cover most of uncovered stuff. I personally follow many of them. My point is about big media houses and websites of big media houses who sideline small players and chase only big, high-profile films and actors.
Yes, Amit. Many big fish do not give a hoot about indie movies. That’s the reason young guys like me at least have a reason to exist in the Bollywood water tank today. Trust me, the kind of press releases, information and invites I have got, the big houses wouldn’t have sent anyone to cover it because ‘dum nahin hein’.
Small blogs aren’t existent in spite of the big houses, they are around because of the apathy that the big houses show to the smaller, lesser known movies and celebs.
Great post BJ. Actually, Bollywood PR has got to be one of the most despicable and unnecessary professions in this entire Universe. They are nothing more than paid sycophants! What these vultures are completely inept at realizing is that the internet has a far greater and immediate reach than the print or television media. So you would think that they would give prominence to popular online critics as well – unless they are trying to conceal a really terrible film for as long as possible. I know you don’t like naming and shaming celebs on this site, but perhaps its worth naming and shaming these so-called PR agencies. Maybe then they’ll start actually behaving professionally and showing some grace when dealing with the media.
It is becoming easier for more and more Bollywood celebs to interact with mediapersons and bloggers. I, for one, spend a lot of time on Twitter to get a uptake on what’s going on with Bollywood to create content. In such a scenario, there has to be someone either dumb or lazy on either side to not have indie and small budget movies content blown into the sky. I count my Press Preview of I am Kalam a shining point in my short lived career as a Bollywood blogger. 🙂
when you are in a sorry and pitiable profession of being a CRITIC, theres no way you will get respect. Be it film makers or film audience, both laugh at critics.
You really have to be shameless human being to criticise something when you have yourself achieved NOTHING.
Neha, you have drawn a very pity picture of a critic.:) It’s not true. Critics are journalists who have a respectable job of looking at a film from a neutral point of view and rate it on its merit. It’s true that many bad filmmakers hate critics because of obvious reasons. But critics are not laughed at by audiences. In fact, a large number of educated people decide to watch a film (or not to watch) after reading a film review. Critics save our time and money by informing us about a bad film. We should be thankful to them. Of course, I am talking about a true film critic ( who are few). On the other side, there are some cheap critics, who are ready to sell themselves. But the value of a critic should not be undermined due to them.
The meaning of a critic changes from contract to contract when it comes to Bollywood. This might be interesting, you might see that some of the most famous names in the Bollywood movie critic circles no longer call themselves movie critics, but trade analysts and other such flowery diplomatic terms. I guess only Khalid Mohammad and some other Mid Day critics term themselves as ‘movie critics’ or ‘movie reviewers’.
Point no. 1: “I am talking about a true film critic ( who are few).” You said it. The question is: how will you, me and others find out whether the view of a particular so called CRITIC on a movie is unbiased or he is just settling some score or venting out his frustration? Do you have an answer?
Point no. 2: “Critics save our time and money by informing us about a bad film” If MR/Ms X did not liked a film, that doesnt mean others too wont 🙂 Its a simple logic that some deluded persons (read critics) can never understand 🙂
Point no. 3: “But critics are not laughed at by audiences” haha seriously. The very fact that audience latch on to a film bashed by so called critics proves it that they just mocked at them. Why shud i give respect to someone who has him/herself achieved nothing and still he/she is judging something way above his/her own achievements. Need an e.g. a sunil gavaskar can judge and advice sachin tendulkar but not,say,ajay jadeja. A Yash chopra can judge and advice rakesh roshan but not,say,a rajeev masand 🙂
Sorry? Pitiable? Harsh words – some words that if a reviewer would write against a movie, they’d be booked for defamation. Anyway, as someone else has pointed out, there are very few ‘critics’. Most of them are journalists who go onto ‘better’ things. Being a critic for a media house means you get Fridays off, free tickets, free transport, and of course, create a network.
I may be the smallest, the most unread critic in the entire world, but I have never really felt that anyone is ‘laughing’ at me. Instead, I have been the number called on a late Friday evening or an early Saturday morning, with my friends and even acquaintances asking whether a movie is ‘worth it’. I didn’t feel sorry or pitiable at that time too.
Reading the last line of the comment amuses me. Because since the time I have set up the blog, I have achieved the following:
Learnt how to manage an entire professional blog on WordPress
Understanding of CSS
Learnt how to handle Social Media accounts. One of these days I might just get a freelancing offer.
Got at least two other projects that are related to Bollywood and media in India.
Made a lot, a lot of friends.
I have only this to say: khalid mohammed is the same guy who usd to take on other ‘s films in the 90s and when his turn came, he did a nutjob. Rest is history 😀
Neha, most of film critics are not qualified for their job. But it does not mean we should badmouth all critics. The same way most stars in Bollywood do not know how to act, but it does not mean we should badmouth all actors. The way you are desperate to badmouth critics it shows you have something personal against them.
If you really want to understand the work and value of a good film critic then I suggest you do a short-term ‘Film Appreciation’ course, which should be mandatory for all film critics. It’s true that these days any idiot becomes a film critic but then in our age of corruption and nepotism, any idiot also becomes an actor or a film director. I can confidently talk about it because I have made 2 short films and I am fully aware about details of film making. The first step to understand the value of a good film critic is to get rid of hatred against him and then become qualified enough (by doing film appreciation course or just a film making course) to understand his work (his work is his film reviews). A film critic is judged by his film reviews and he can also be an achiever. For example, Rajeev Masand was thrice adjudged ‘Best Entertainment Critic’ by the National Television (NT) Awards, in 2008, 2010 and 2011. That is his achievement, which is good enough. By dismissing and badmouthing all film critics you are showing just your hatred for them, nothing more.
By the way I am not a film critic. Neither I personally know any film critic 🙂
Neha, I would like to reply to your questions.
Point No.1 – You can judge a critic by his work. But you need knowledge and experience yourself to do that. It’s like asking how to know if an actor is acting in a film or overacting or just not acting? You can know if only if you understand what acting is all about. It’s same with a film review. There are indeed some good reviewers. I personally find Rajeev Masand of IBN Live better than others.
Point No. 2 – Film reviewing is NOT about saying if you liked the film or not. It is about saying what is good about the film and what is bad without it, without being influenced by your own personal biases and tastes. That is why common people are not film critics because they just say they like/dislike a film. Common people do not understand details of film making enough to make a good analysis of it. A good film can be flop if audiences do not find it entertaining. On the other hand, a bad film can be hit if people find it entertaining. Entertainment value and quality of a film are two different things. For example, Maqbool was a good quality film but a flop at box office. On the other hand, Son of Sardaar was a hit film but was of bad quality.
Point no. 3- If people make a film hit it does not mean they disrespect a critic or make fun of him. It simply means that they find the film entertaining, in spite of film reviews.
Point no. 4.- The job of a film critic is to critically analyze a film. His job is not to tell a film director about how to make a film. A critic DOES NOT need to make a film before writing a film review. You can express your opinion about a product even if you do not know how to make it. For example you can say a certain mobile phone is bad, even if you do not know how to make a phone. Another example is that cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle can not advice Sachin about how to play cricket, but he can surely analyze performance of Sachin and other players. And he does it well too. He does not need to become a player before becoming a commentator. In a similar way, an art critic can review a painting without becoming a painter.
You still havent answered me on this: “how will you, me and others find out whether the view of a particular so called CRITIC on a movie is unbiased or he is just settling some score or venting out his frustration?”
and your reply has raised further questions:
1. “You can judge a critic by his work” what work? what has he/she done/achieved to judge?
2. “You can know if only if you understand what acting is all about” and what makes you think a so called critic understands that?whats the diff. between him/her and movie going audience?
3. “Common people do not understand details of film making enough to make a good analysis of it” Seriously?Again, what makes you think that a so called critic understands it?Just coz he/she is working for a print/electronic media house?lol
4. “If people make a film hit it does not mean they disrespect a critic or make fun of him.It simply means that they find the film entertaining, in spite of film reviews.” It also means they dont give 2 hoots to critics which means no respect 🙂 which is what i said in my 1st comment.
5. “Son of Sardaar was a hit film but was of bad quality.” Seriously?Again, just coz you find it bad, that doesnt mean its actually bad. If SOS was really a bad film, it wud have also gone down the drain like himmatwala but IT DIDNT 🙂
6. “A critic DOES NOT need to make a film before writing a film review” well then you and me are also equally qualified to judge a film/product. This contradicts your earlier statement that common people dont understand details 🙂
7. “Harsha does not need to become a player before becoming a commentator” Commentator and critic both are different my friend. Commentator only comments whats happening during the match. 4, 6 close call, out, dot ball. And after the match, they do its analysis but not rates players.
8. and finally, You find rajeev masand better than others. Hes the same nut who gives 4 stars to craps like matru ki bijlee ka mandola and 2 stars to OH my god. I have no need to say anything else 🙂
oops sorry my bad. It was not OH My God but some other film and a good one. Anyways the 1st part of last statement remains.
1 more: “The job of a film critic is to critically analyze a film. His job is not to tell a film director about how to make a film.” Try explaining that 1st to any of the so called CRITIC coz they are doing the latter currently 🙂
December 6, 2013 at 1:55 PM
Every time you say something, you have no answer to my questions but end up creating more questions.
Badmouth?I didnt used a single abusive word. Pls dont say that ‘pitiable’ is badmouthing. 🙂
And why dont you give this same advice to some of the critics to apply on themselves 1st.
I am neither a film maker nor a critic (thank god for the latter 🙂 ) and have got nothing personal against any critic. i just stumbled upon this post while net surfing and explained the reason why such a treatment was meted out to a so called CRITIC mentioned in the story which is “when you are in a sorry and pitiable profession of being a CRITIC, theres no way you will get respect.”
If you cant appreciate someone’s hard work then dont dismiss it either. Just keep quiet. Is it that hard?
I have a lot to say about this award funda too but wont trouble that much 🙂
And yes, if you are not a critic yet, one advice: never become one too. Do something constructive in life. Achieve something 1st and then analyse it 🙂
This is my first time visit at here and i am genuinely impressed to read everthing at alone