Monday, January 02, 2006

The Art of Reviewing Without Predilection

Annie raises this question in a fine post. Excerpts below:

...I find it harder and harder to pass judgement upon any such creative work. The fact that I don't like it means nothing. I am not the world. And if I do like something, that is very likely a reflection upon me - my tastes, my values, my sense of humour, my needs.

Which is why, I've more or less stopped reading reviews. Especially movie reviews, since I realised how upsetting the star-rating system can be. Most publications have a five star rating scheme, where:
5 stars = fantastic/unmissable.
1 star = awful/please-avoid.
1 and a 1/2 stars = so-awful-that-we're-feeling-sorry-for-the-filmmakers.
I recall a time when I used to look forward to Khalid Mohamed's Sunday reviews in the Bombay edition of ToI. His make-fun-of-everything style, his silly-billy rhyme-shyme was amusing, if not edifying. But then, one day, he reviewed the film Love ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega. He refused to give it a review or a rating. Not even 1 star. He said it didn't deserve even that!

Since it was an E. Niwas film, we watched it, anyway. It was a very decently made film. I was laughing almost non-stop. (Some people suggested it's lifted from somewhere else in the western hemisphere; I really don't care. That's the newest fashionable thing, nowadays - spot the slightest similarity between any old English film and any new Hindi film, and accuse the filmmaker of 'lifting'... besides, no western movie could ever have had anything as remarkable as Aslam Bhai).

That day, I lost respect for that review-column. Now, I've stopped reading film reviews. I'll read them if I'm curious about the story, or if the reviewer is a fantastic writer. But I refuse to accept reviewers' verdicts, even when ALL of them say the same thing. In fact, if they all say it's great, I get a little suspicious. If they uniformly hate it, I'm immediately curious. For instance, Apharan has good reviews but I'm not too keen on it.

The part about being disenchanted by a hitherto-favourite critic strikes a chord - in my case, with Mr. Subhash.K.Jha who writes regularly for Sify and NowRunning. Mr. Jha is a fairly severe critic (which suits me just fine), except when it comes to the Bachchans, Aishwarya Rai, Lata Mangeshkar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali etc. IMHO, Mr. Jha loses all objectivity when it comes to the personalities mentioned above (I mean, Aish can't even act, for chrissakes!! And even the great Lata's voice grates on the nerves nowadays), and I no longer follow his reviews as much as I used to.

Of late, I have been following the reviews by Raja Sen, Sukanya Verma, Patcy, Indrani etc at the Rediff reviews section - somehow, I agree with most of their observations on movies. I'd also recommend the reviews at Planet Bollywood and IndiaGlitz.

Incidentally, Annie's review of BluffMaster has got me interested - gotta watch it !!!!

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