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What killed the film critic?

The writing is on the wall, but we are still turning our faces away and pretending that we haven’t noticed it.  Since we are still living in denial mode, I don’t mind being the one to spell it out loud and clear — Film critics in Bollywood are dead.

Over the last decade, the once-dreaded-and-sought-after breed was on life support, but it finally breathed its last two years ago. There are various factors for that and I intend to list out some of the most important ones today. 

The recent past saw  ‘genuine’ reviews ratings at loggerheads with box office numbers. Most of the films that reviewers praised, failed at the box office. It just underlined one fact — that the audience in India had scant regard for any film that got three-four stars.
Instead, they went and spent their money on films that had been rated poorly. And one can cite many examples for this.The great divide between the sensibilities of the audience and the film critics have been there in the past, but it’s not as gigantic as it is now. It seems that every film that get roasted by the critics, end up with a more-than-just-favourable results at the box office.
Ten years ago, the scenario was different. Filmmakers and cine buffs had immense regard for film reviewers and eagerly waited for the verdict as they believed that it made an impact at the box office. In fact, in my experience as a film reviewer, I was served with a legal notice for trashing a film. That’s how important film reviewers were in Bollywood.
Today they are nothing more than a laughing stock. Filmmakers don’t bother about film reviewers any more. Leading production houses are increasingly following the example set by Yashraj Films and don’t bother to show the film to the reviewers ahead of its release.
Nobody in Bollywood cares for film reviews anymore.
What and when did the downfall of a film critic begin? Let’s take a look at some factors that contributed to it.
film critics

1. When production houses started paying off film critics 

The death knell was sounded when film critics started accepting money for better ratings of a film. Film reviews slowly became a source of generating a ‘side income’ for some reviewers. The trend took on malignant proportions, when more and more film reviewers with a fan following started accepting cash in exchange of star-ratings. As a result, they started giving four and half stars to films that don’t even deserve half a star. It had a devastating effect on their credibility and a lot of genuine fans started unfollowing them on social networking sites. As the follower count started declining, some reviewers started paying for more followers. While the number of followers rose, genuine audience (who used to read their reviews before watching a film) stayed away. According to me this cash-for-stars ‘business model’ had the most devastating effect on the credibility of Bollywood film critics.

2. Senior journalists turned film critics
Only in India, you will find that senior journalists and entertainment editors automatically assume the job of being a film critic. The result? Film reviews have become a tool for some journalists to get access to stars and hobnob with the PRs. 
3. People from other professions turned film critics 

Film critics, today, not only come from media houses. Any one can be film critic today— astrologers, investment bankers, radio-jockeys or even page three celebs. People who have nothing to do with films writing in real life have turned film critics. Their film criticism is so flawed that they cannot even distinguish between good and bad cinema.

4Cub reporters stepping up as film critics
If you go to the press shows of any big release, you will notice that they are all freshers to the field of journalism itself. These so-called critics, sometimes clap and whistle in the hall when their favourite hero or heroine comes on-screen. I remember an instance when a young film reviewer – barely 19 years old – dropped the cola on my jeans during a sex scene with Sunny Leone in it. He started clapping when Sunny started licking the neck of her co-star. You know what kind of film review to expect from someone like him. 

5. Seasoned reviewers lost touch with the audience

Never mind their cribbing, but the fact is that some of the seasoned film critics have lost the connect they had with the multiplex audience. They are so engrossed on finding out if the film is plagiarised or how it fares on their own meter of world cinema that they forget to tell us why should or should not watch a film. Barring the fact that they are good reads, the reviews fail to make a point.

Ask any website owner or web editor and he/she will sum up the only utility of film reviews today —  they help in getting more than usual page-views.

Thank you Avinash Patil for doing this illustration for me. Kindly visit Avinash’s cartoon blog. It’s hilarious! 
Want to know how many kinds of film critics are there on Bollywood? Read about them here

2 replies »

  1. well there is a certan critic I stopped following because he makes it obvious, I actually feel bad for him because on his site there are so many comments asking him how much he got paid , etc, this happens every single time!

    However there are some awesome critics out there too, look at Anupama, Rajeev, Raja, Mihir, they tell it like it is


  2. I think you are being quite unfair Bollywood Journalist. Critics are not fortune tellers and their job is not to give 5 stars to films that ultimately do well as the box office, but to give an unbiased and frank opinion of a film. I am still recovering from the miserable experience of watching Dhoom 3, and that is meant to be one of Bollywoods highest grossing films? It was a complete hotchpotch mish mash and plain embarassing piece of Bollywood cinema. If you go by the theory that a good film must do well at the box office, then we should be giving awards to rubbish films like D3 and Jai Ho, and the likes of Katrina Kaif and Salman Khan should be winning national awards for acting. There is still a very important place for the film critic. Athough I agree that good critics are very much a dying breed. But I will always check Rajeev Masand’s review before deciding whether or not it is worth seeing a film.


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