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10 Things I hate about Telugu Movie Critics…

June 16, 2009

Lets get one thing straight, an average Telugu movie review isn’t more than 1000 words and if you weed out the obvious things, the actual analysis and criticism comes to not more than 300-500 words. And as a matter of fact, those 400 odd words alone manage to make or break a film. Leaving aside a more pragmatic approach which Hollywood movie critics like Roger Ebert (writes for Suntimes, Chicago) and Peter Travers (writes for Rolling Stones) undertake in writing an “opinionated” review in terms of interpreting themes and movies in general, Indian movie critics are hell bent on either showering a film with accolades or libeling any movie. And all seem to do is quantify a work of art/mundane/commercial/parallel cinema in terms of either Good or Bad and most probably as Average.

Telugu Film Industry aka Tollywood, unlike Hindi film Industry has realised rather late that doing great business in markets abroad like US/UK/Australia is as important as “entertaining” our local crowds. Although the market share which Telugu films have is quite less compared to Hindi films, it nevertheless rakes in a sizeable amount owing to exorbitant ticket prices ranging from $8-$16 in territories like US. The money collected in these territories is important because quite a few of our films tend to be a little calculative on how much they spend to atleast breakeven. My guess is, its because of this high cost involved, people are often selective of which movies they watch and most probably this decision is arrived at after reading reviews on some popular websites. It’s a known fact that the revenue generated from overseas markets is solely dependent on the reviews and the “ratings” which the critic gives any particular movie.

With a boom in internet, a plethora of so called movie websites were launched in the last 8 years and out of those hundreds of sites around 8-10 continue to have regular readership despite new websites hitting the circuit. I agree that I haven’t kept myself abreast with the “analysis” of all the movie reviews which critics come up with but off late I have realised quite a few things like:

1. A review & rating varies depending on the hero/director/producer/production banner involved. No wonder some of the recent movies like “Ride”, “Billa” were touted as movies with great amount of entertainment/story while some other sensible flicks like “Prayanam” and to an extent “Boni” were panned citing a weak script/screenplay. I disagree. Strongly.

2. Quite a few of them tend to reveal too many details taking away the thrill when you come across the important “twists” while watching the movie. Sometimes you end up not watching the movie at all, since you know A to Z about the movie, especially when you feel it’s a lame concept.

3. The movie gets a very negative review and rating if the critic present in the cinema hall observes that people have left mid-way or before the end of the movie for various reasons. Often it’s “infered” that people were bored and didn’t like the movie at all.

4. The technical aspects like editing, cinematography are measured in terms of good or bad and review completely skips the whole essence of what makes them good or bad. There’s never a mention about them beyond a single line. Of all the reviews I follow, I think only Jeevi writes a more balanced and in depth review when it comes to these technical aspects.

5. The ratings itself are often tampered with. I doubt if anyone uses a complex formula which international movie websites like imdb.com or rottentomatoes.com use for their ratings. In one popular website (not a Telugu website) I have noticed that many Telugu movies despite getting a good review are never given a rating of more than 2/2.5.

6. The maximum rating a movie will ever earn is 4/4.5 out of the possible 5. I wonder why are standards so high when you know that you can’t expect a genius to direct a movie. Movies these days are only made for one purpose. To entertain. Not enlighten.

7. Movie reviews tend to be more positive if a movie has loads of “commercial” elements which are mainly aimed at “entertaining” the audience.

8. These days a lot of importance is given to comedy in films. It’s not given so much importance in a film, a “should have been given more importance” line is written in bold!

9.  Reviews often vary based on the mood of the critic. This definites shrouds the possibility the finer points about the movie.

10. Finally and one of the most important, too often critics tend to compare an artist/technicians with their past performances/films. They add so much emphasis to this aspect that, I think in a way they are more responsible in stereotyping our films. Well, the excuse is always, “This is what people expect!”

Another major aspect what I have observed is, almost everyone seems to have the same opinion. Considering the possibility that  movie critics don’t sit together and discuss the pros and cons of writing a praising/panning a movie, how can 10 different movie critics sitting in 10 different cinema halls have the same opinion. Someone, somewhere must be thinking differently. A critic can’t be a zombie sitting in a dark room and connecting with his/her peers about what they think of the movie, they should have an opinion, a perspective of their own.

There are umpteen other things in addition to what I have seen. I confess that at times I tend to make the same mistake and end up writing like what others do, but atleast I can tell you with conviction that I speak my mind. There was a time when I couldn’t find fault with any movie, I stuck on to the finer details and fell in love with movies and film criticism. It wasn’t untill I saw one bad film (can’t remember the name) which the so called “critics” went on to praise immensely, I changed the way I watch films.

It’s easy to say that a film was good or bad, depending on what interested you, but also consider the circumstances which led you to that conclusion. If the purpose of a cinema hall/cinema is where you can sit and watch a film in the comforts of plush seats, good sound, AC, cola, burgers…and finally be entertained more than anything else then god save our films!

Long time ago Fredrico Felini, one of the greatest film directors ever once said, “Talking about movie, is like talking about Dreams“. And I ask you now, can you put those dreams into words? Can you immerse yourself into the world of meaningful cinema which doesn’t have to entertain you?. I am taking a strong “NO” for that question. But mark my words, untill that happens, the shield of medicore and inanity cloaked as “entertainer” will never break. They will continue to haunt you. Till then, all we end up doing is feel the blood pumping everytime a “sumo/car/tractor/truck” is blown 50 feet in air and villians/heros massacaring each other for every damn reason.

Amen.

-Hemanth

P.S: Watch films by Ingmar Bergman/Andrei Tarkovsky/Majid Majidi/Pedro Almodovar/Abbas Khiarostami/Akira Kurosawa/Satyajit Ray… Most of them will probably put you to sleep, but their works are exactly what I term “Dreams turned to reality on silver screen”!

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2009 1:19 pm

    whatever you say seems to be correct mostly but not always, but I wouldn’t argue about that.

    What I do not agree with is your constant comparison with western film makers and viewers. People of AP are very different from US/European audiences. Of course that does not mean blowing up sumos into the air! But the point is you are comparing apples and oranges. Instead of that may be a few suggestions on how to make the sumo blow-ups seem realistic would be better!

    • Hemanth permalink*
      June 16, 2009 1:30 pm

      @sars: I agree with your point of view about our audience being very different from those in Europe/US. But then, when we take so much inspiration (and at times blatantly rip off) stories, techniques from the west, isn’t it time that even the movie critics change the way they write about films? Either we localize our stories too much or we never want to get out of the frame of “pleasing” the crowd..whatever it maybe, our films definitely lack an international appeal. it’s not a bad thing to do either, because at the end of the day everyone gets what they want, producers/distributors get their money and audience is happy. But our films will never be able to make it to the international arena.

  2. chaitanya permalink
    June 16, 2009 5:51 pm

    ive written movie reviews for a stupid site called teluguwave. Now i am not required to go into absolute detail as my readers wouldnt like to read. I am expected to either extol the actor or the director if he has a good background and moderately criticize to not antagonize his fans.
    Now we know the actors in tollywood are not just actors, they become your anna,tammudu,chelle or akka(lol)! No wonder we have actors smoothly transitioning into politicians.
    So your case on film critics will obv go back to what readers want and what the producers will give them. Regarding ripping off from western stories, its not so much as compared to other industries. We infact try to make multiple copies of blockbusters from telugu cinema itself and end up with super flops.

    So I have already forsaken this industry. If a producer could gamble and bring back to screen some of the great chiru, nag,venky,kamal’s hits of the 80’s and 90’s back,we could hopefully redeem this new generation being brought up on absolute filth.

    PS: my cousin is 1nhalf years old and he makes people around him end up in fits of laughter each time he says ‘ninnu vadalanu bomali, vadala’. quite an impact these movies have, so unless a messiah comes about, the kids of the 21st century in AP will grow up to be apes.
    pps: shreya in pista is hottt!!

    • Hemanth permalink*
      June 17, 2009 10:56 am

      @Chaitanya: Ahh…I had a hunch that the producers and critics have an understanding! Hehehe…completely agree with you about the love and respect which the fans have for the actors! We see them as demigods and everything and anything they do become a part of life….

      Let’s hope atleast someone somewhere will make a difference..:)

  3. Swati. permalink
    July 21, 2009 8:40 pm

    I love this!!

    Waiting for u to review Kalavaramaye madilo. Please hurry.

  4. chaitu permalink
    August 8, 2009 11:46 am

    I like ganesh’s reviews on andhracafe better than those of jeevi.
    Anyway why can’t people do anything about internet piracy? I mean a movie like Magadheera should be watched on the screen for its visuals. But the cam rip is already out. Can’t someone, say Allu sirish do anything abt it?

    • sudhiranjan nadella permalink
      September 25, 2009 11:26 am

      i have not read everything that was written above by the author or the responses. I just want to make one point. Why does blowing up anything, needed to make a movie. Yes, a movie needs to be commercially viable and profitable. Yes, it needs to hold the interest of the audience. But why is a film with a train being chased by 40 sumos and people waving weapons in air become a superhit. Another super hit movie message, For doing good to 10 people, you can kill the evil or die trying. Why does anyone have to die? Why do evil people exist?
      Yes I am completely of topic. Here is the point. Media is the biggest influence on the society since it reaches out to maximum people. Movies are the biggest media, since even the illeterate watch them. And this what we show in the movies? Not one, not two. You name 10 superhits. 10 of them will have some one getting killed by the villian or the hero.
      Explain,
      dont understand, convince
      dont understand, argue
      dont understand, verbally abuse
      dont understand, fight
      dont understand, kill
      and thats our mode of communication. Today’s movies spawn villians not heros. It spawns killers. A kid goes to a movie and sees his idol start with verbally fighting with the evil guys, then he sees him fighting.. then he sees them killing the evil guy..
      Why is this kid who is no more than 10 years old sleeping on the street starving without food. More importantly, when he grows up what skills would he have learnt for survival.. beg, cheat, steal?

      Giving a few rupees to a street kid might help him buy a meal. Helping orphanages and trying to educate people might help. But unless the bigger entities change the bigger picture will not change. I do what I can to the society. But 8 hands are always better than 4 and 4 hands are always better than 2. I have no religion I have no god. Anything is good only if it is doing positive more than negative. The day even a single life is lost in the name of religion it lost its value for me. And now it is not one. It is millions all over the world.

      I just believe in one thing. I was brought up for 18 years without even knowing what it feels like to go hungry because I could not afford a single meal everyday. 42% of indian children live below the global poverty line of 1.5 dollar a day. I want to make that 0 %. Help me. Help Humanity. Help Life.

  5. peepudeepu permalink
    October 8, 2009 6:50 pm

    i love you … hemanth ! (supposing language didn’t decieve me in using “love”)
    “” I couldn’t find fault with any movie “”

    • Hemanth permalink*
      October 9, 2009 1:36 am

      @peepudeepu…!!!!!!!!!!…well, that leaves me with too many questions!!..:P…thanks for dropping in!..:)

  6. Hareesh permalink
    May 3, 2010 1:12 pm

    You are absolutely right in a way that the younger generationw ill grow on absolute shit if we don’t change it right from the beginning. @chaitanya even family members shouldn’t encourage children to watch such movies and make them recite those gore filled dialogues. I am not being too philosophical but I still feel yetseryears values instilled were far better like encouraging them to read vemana satakalu, pedda bala siksha, sumathi satakalu. etc

  7. June 16, 2010 3:01 pm

    In the so many websites, as i seen there will be ratings too. If the rating is average, but the movie review they are describing in a huge manner. For example YMC review on idb, he stated it is 3.5 rating. But while reading the review, there wont be any negative points.
    Almost 3 to 3.5 rating films are the box office collection movies and some have story and good scripts too. thats.

  8. June 16, 2010 3:04 pm

    Writing movie reviews is a good thing. Because by reading so many reviews, directors can also know that what the people are expecting from the director. So that he takes care all the issues and work with good script.
    i like Postmortem and my movie section in idlebrain.com

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