Sunday, 30 September 2012

Being a Movie Critic

If you are an Indian, then you’re also expert on two particular topics – Movies and Cricket. We like to talk about these endlessly. Everyone has an opinion. From Sehwag’s bad form to what makes the three Khans the kings of Bollywood, we know it all. Fridays have become such important days for us, as we all look forward to the release of the next Bollywood blockbuster. But a new predicament has arisen thanks to the number of movies releasing each week and the cost of tickets at multiplexes. It has become important to know which movie is worth investing our money in. This is where movie critics come to our rescue! They watch the movie so that you can decide whether to watch it or give it a skip. Discovering Mumbai recently interviewed ‘Blessy Chettiar’ a movie critic at DNA newspaper to understand what it means to be a movie critic!

A true-blue Mumbai girl, Blessy has completed her studies from HR and Sophia College. She was not born in a family that was crazy for movies. Both her parents are Roman Catholics, her father being from South and her mother from Goa. She is quite fluent in Konkani, being brought up in a Goan way, thanks to her mother’s lineage. Blessy, also has a master’s degree in political science and is very interested in the political happenings of the Middle East. When not watching movies she can be found reading about the things that move the Arab world.

Journalism chose me”, is what Blessy feels. She had a flair for writing; and she always felt that she needed to take it on a professional level. She bagged a job in Saffron Media’s TravelBiz Monitor, a B2B magazine, even before she had appeared for her final exams. She was so excited to start working that she joined her job just three days after her final exams got over! Movie reviewing came to her at DNA. Her editor was looking for someone who would regularly watch movies and review them. “Obviously, I was apprehensive as I am not trained in film appreciation or the craft per se. I felt it would be unethical to even attempt something as responsible as expressing an opinion about it”, said Blessy about her initial fears of taking up movie reviews. But finally her editor managed to coax her into taking up this assignment.

‘Lamhaa’ starring Bipasha Basu and Sanjay Dutt was the first movie that she reviewed. At the press show of the movie, among a crowd of seasoned critics, she was extremely nervous. Like any first timer she carefully jotted down points while watching the film so that she would not miss out on the nuances latter. After reaching home she wrote out the entire review on her diary with the thought that she would better it when she finally keyed it in on her computer. However, it was not as easy as she had anticipated. She was scared about what her editor would say after reading it. “I have saved the email where I told my editor to trash the review if need be, as I didn't have the guts to take so much criticism face to face”, said Blessy.

“The story takes precedence over everything else”, said Blessy on being asked what she looks for when reviewing a movie. The story is important, so is the way in which it is told. Technical aspects like sound design, cinematography, acting etc. come later. She is also interested in the way the filmmaker treats his subjects, whether what he wants to show is conveyed clearly or does it all look pushy and contrived. “I'm a big fan of the under player. I believe you don't have to overemphasize something to draw attention to it. The more you underplay it, the more effective it can be. Then again, there are exceptions “, said Blessy.

Inarguably, the biggest perk of being a movie critic is the privilege of being able to see the movie before everyone else does. The downside, however, is that you have to watch a movie whether you want to or not. “I may not want to watch and review a particular film for any reason, but I never have that option”, said Blessy. Another thing she likes about her job is the kind of people she gets to meet and interact with at film screenings. “People in India are crazy about movies and that passion is seen in some people who give up well-paying jobs to take a dive into the risky business of filmmaking and related opportunities”, said Blessy.

The first movie which she gave four stars was ‘Udaan’. It was a movie which she could totally relate to. Recently, she gave ‘Barfi’ four and half stars. Many readers do write back if they like her review. Criticism also flows from die-hard fans of stars, whose movies she thrashes in her reviews. “I get that all the time, especially for Akshay Kumar films. His fans stand by him no matter what rubbish he passes off as films”, said Blessy. Her review of the internationally-acclaimed Twilight Breaking Dawn also got her a good amount of negative feedback. Same is the case with mythological and animation films. People just can’t take criticism. “I only followed my editor's first advice, don't care what people will say, just write what you feel about a film with utmost honesty. People will get used to your style, and they did”, said Blessy. She is very okay with receiving negative criticism, for her it’s a sign that at least people are reading her reviews!

According to Blessy the current crop of filmmakers is doing a really great job. Being from the hinterland they have refreshing stories to tell to the urban crowds. She personally likes to see movies based on stories from faraway places which otherwise never get mentioned in media. It’s not only the stories from the country’s hinterlands that excite her, even stories on city life interest her as she can relate to them. “I still don't consider myself in a position to comment on the current state of film affairs. There's so much to watch, so much to learn, so much to critique and it's all so overwhelming”, said Blessy.

Though she would love to continue reviewing movies, feature writing is what she enjoys more. “I like perspectives of people, experts in fields I have no knowledge of. There's always so much to learn from so many people”, said Blessy. She aims to learn whatever she can from whomever she interacts; she feels it keeps her sane! She feels that movie reviews make one feel responsible as there will be at least one person out there who would invest 200 bucks on a movie ticket based on your review. “No one likes to be cheated and it's the same with reviews. If you can't convince yourself about something, there's no way anybody else will believe you. These days anybody can rip a film apart and become an overnight sensation. It has to be seen that a lot of effort and time goes into making a film. Dismissing someone's effort as crass and waste of time can be heart-breaking. In my opinion, if you cannot make a better film, or give constructive criticism, you cannot be called a critic”. Well we had almost lost faith in movie reviews but post this interview our faith has been somewhat restored! Surely the world could do with a few more critics like Blessy!

You can check out her movie reviews - here

1 comment:

  1. I've seen Blessy work real hard, from being given a job in previously uncharted territory to learning the ropes, faster than anyone else, in her position actually, would. She deserves a pat on her back, not once, but everytime she comes out with a good film review. Great job with the interview.There is a dearth of people, who actually seek out for young talent. The popular, always overshadow, the really talented.