In the Mind of A Reviewer

[Also appeared in the DNA Sunday Mag]

If there is one thing I have learnt in eight years of posts and 57,405 comments at my blog “Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind” ( is that, nothing, and I mean nothing, gets the Indian audience more emotionally riled up than movie reviews.

Some samples:

I used to respect you as a human being. I am sorry but someone who does not understand the greatness of “Rockstar” deserves neither my respect nor my attention.?

“What? You liked “Ra One” And after this you would like us to believe your opinion counts for anything?”

“You didn’t think “Gulaal” was awesome. Yeah you are only good for reviewing Mithun-da movies. Don’t dabble in things above your intellect level.”

“More people watch Salman’s movies in a minute than those will read your book in a life-time. (I also write books). So yeah, suck it loser”

“No wonder you hate all movies by Shahrukh Khan. He ejected the Bengali God out of his team. Ha Ha.”

“You must be an Akshay Kumar fan”

“Trying to be contrarian just to be cool, eh?”

“He liked “Housefull 2” and not “Delhi Belly”. Says a lot about his understanding of great cinema.”

“When I came to read your review, I thought you would flog this movie. I can see you didn’t like it but you should have hated it more. I think you have lost your edge.”

You see, when I write about politics, the attacks, once you think about it, are quite simple. You are either a sickular (technical term for Congress supporter) or you are an Internet Hindu (Sagarika Ghose-given sobriquet for a Saffronite).

Simple black and white.

I can deal with that.

However when you review movies, the number of labels that may be attached to you are mind-bogglingly diverse—-Salman fan-boy, Shahrukh hater, Aamir lover, Hritthik camp slave, faux-intellectual, overtly-highbrow and so it goes. The only saving grace in my case is that because I am not a professional movie reviewer (which means I don?t get invited to pre-showings or special events) I have not been accused of writing paid reviews.

Not yet any ways.

In a way, I understand why people get so frothed up over movies reviews. You buy a ticket, go into the darkened theater and feel a personal connection with what is on screen. It moves you, it makes you laugh, it makes you feel pleased with yourself. You come home, go online or pick up a newspaper and there is this weirdo brutalizing that which so touched you deeply. How dare he? Who the hell is this person questioning, in effect, my taste and my intellect? Surely, he must be an idiot (if he isn’t then I am). No he is biased. That sounds right. He has been bought by “them”. Or he must be a fan of some other star. Maybe, I was correct the first time. He is an imbecile. Otherwise how can this man like “Gunda” and not “No Smoking”?

Here is the thing many forget. Movies are evaluated as per the parameters of their genre. For example, the fact that I consider both “Deewana Mastana” and “Dekalog” as masterpieces should not be taken as proof positive of intellectual schizophrenia or of sinister design. It is just that my definition and parameters of “enjoyment” and “brilliance” are context and content-specific.

In the final analysis though, a review will always be one person’s opinion. Just like any other viewer, a reviewer brings his own biases, preferences, personal history and beliefs to the theater. And just as a film is the projection of light and shadow on a screen, a review is a projection of that film on an individual’s mind. Thus it can never be impartial. Nor can it be expected to be.

And that’s just the way it is.

23 thoughts on “In the Mind of A Reviewer

  1. July 20, 2012 — 12:56 am


  2. Siddesh Sridhar July 20, 2012 — 1:01 am

    Some very valid points…
    Personally,reviews are more of an entertainment value for me and in some cases they shed light on a few plot intricacies I may have missed out on.
    One should be able to judge a film on their own as like you said, a personal connection is forged which only that individual can appreciate.

  3. Talking about reviews, we are all waiting with bated breath for your review of The Dark Knight Rises. Your Dark Knight review was amazing.

  4. Jim Emerson talks a lot about this fanboy VS critics in his Scanners blog.

    I wrote about it briefly here:

  5. Very few comments on this post! Did you hit too close to the truth?

  6. If its any consolation to you, i think you are a great writer and hit the nail on the head, most of the time. I might not always agree with you but thats bound to happen, as obviously no two people will always agree on everything (matter of perceptions and personal beleifs). I hope you continue writing, just make the blogs more frequent.

  7. I personally have never made a decision whether to see a movie or not based on a review. At the end of the day it is another human being who is reviewing and his tastes/preferences might not be same as mine, so if you wanna see a movie, never ever base it on someone’s review. Of course, there are some gems like RGV ki aag which got trashed by all reviewers alike- and thats a signal not to watch it (though I did, and sat till the end to see how bad it can get!), but generally, the rule of thumb is- if you like a star, go watch his movie and enjoY! Let others carp on about how unsophisticated etc. you are, but I am not gonna miss out on a movie coz its considered “uncool” to see it!

  8. I am sure there are also losers who don’t have the time or patience to write blogs and reviews but are still drawn to the idea of being heard or read, in some way or other. The comments section is a great place for people like these….And I also realize I might be proving my own point right now.

  9. Arnab da,

    I believe movies are made for public entertainment. What constitutes entertainment differs from people to people. As you mentioned in your former posts also delhi belly might be cool for teenagers but it might not appeal to mature audience. Similarly sometimes MIB4, transformer 3 or wrath of Titans might appeal to people with interest in 3D effects but might be totally rejected by audience looking for story line.
    Truly said
    “a film is the projection of light and shadow on a screen, a review is a projection of that film on an individual’s mind. Thus it can never be impartial.”
    But sometimes review also provide a different prospective to a movie, which might actually influence the audience to view it. For example your review of Ek mein aur Ek tu, actually made me watch the movie (and I liked it). Sometimes our perceptions rule the way we look at a movie and in the process we might actually miss out on something really good. Before your review, looking at the promos and some friendly reviews, I clubbed this movie with other Karan Johar romcoms and decided it was not worth a watch. So reviews sometimes help people too, even though it might be an impartial product of a reviewer’s own perceptions.

    Bottom line is we love your reviews, either for thrashing or endorsing it. So keep writing.

  10. My fav song from gulaal ! Veer ras ki poetry hain.

    Aarambh Hai Prachand – Gulaal

    In past, People use to pick up fights after listening to Alha Udal folk songs. Hope piyush misra makes it available for the masses.

  11. I dont remember July 20, 2012 — 4:29 pm

    Great, a review about reviews. I wonder why I wonder why I wonder why……

  12. Why just movie reviews. People are generally very protective about their opinions in general. If you strike down a design of a senior architect he immediately starts pouting ! Try criticizing a musician about his piece and he will go all sour on you 🙂

    Also i didn’t realize you did not like Delhi Belly 🙂 …. that movie is a bit Guy Ritchieish …. I kinda found it great ….

  13. Unrelated comment , but when is tribute to Kaka coming up on the blog. By the way,
    I simply loved the post ‘ Avatar – Teen Dimension me’. Rereading it in memory of Kaka.

  14. There are many a times I have liked a movie, then later see that you have criticized that movie in your blog, but still liking your review of that movie. Likewise many movies that I have not liked, but still liking your positive review of the movie.

  15. Arnab sir…that sounded like a rant to me…you do not owe any justification to anybody…seems like you are getting bogged down a bit by these negative comments (and emails)…every artist has to face criticism…some constructive but most mindless…and you cannot get rid of it…but what should matter more is, people who love your blog…and there are plenty of them…so sir ji…keep writing…more often…and btw The Mine was truly fantastic (purely my opinion)…keep the ball rolling sir ji..

  16. Kafan Chor Neta July 21, 2012 — 5:55 pm

    Khada kar diya hai mera , Khada kar diya hai mera ,
    Movie Review ke comments ne Ghussey se ek ek baal khada diya hai.

  17. Dear Arnab,
    I disagree with ur last para partially… “just as a film is the projection of light and shadow on a screen, a review is a projection of that film on an individual’s mind. Thus it can never be impartial. Nor can it be expected to be.. a review will always be one person’s opinion”
    True… but then some carry a message… n that has to be spread… like ur fans like me watch a movie on ur reviews…
    Evaluate ur last para in terms of the Colossal ‘THE GUNDA’…
    Review…. Opinion…yes ..i agree… just delete films out of it…
    There are many lesser mortals on whom things gotto be hammered… sorry.. my views sound Autocratic…
    But then democracy doesnt work everywhere…. Eg: People have issues over standing when National Anthem is played when this discussion is raised on public forum…on a news channel…. i hope u understand my demented views… my dear demented mind… 🙂

    Mera Bharat Mahan

  18. @GB. Good one. Keep them coming. Just because someone doesn’t agree with your point of view it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have one!

    See the comments… from ‘drivel’ to concerned advice from fans, from personal blog links to favorite videos, requests for reviews of ‘my favorite movie’ and even references to democracy gone wrong.

    There are some posts, where the comments are even more entertaining than the post itself. This is one of them! 🙂

  19. MumbaiMeriJaan July 23, 2012 — 2:45 am

    Awww..mommmiieee…my blog has responses that i don’t like !! Go cry to ur momma?
    Agree with addsmiles, seems you’re getting irked a lot lately by ur faithful (: commentors, considering this is the 2nd rant about commentors in a month i think.
    Come on! Your blog is not much without the community that follows it, I think u know that. Ofcourse in an ideal world you’d want only comments that agree/praise your work/criticise ur work but only in a well informed polite manner/not have personal attacks/not have trolls. But guess what, this is the internet, and any blogger worth his salt would just deal with it and move on.

    And you’re writing blogs about topics like hindu-muslim, india-pakistan, GOI …ofcourse you’re going to get rational/irrational responses over the whole spectrum from ‘Your’s politely’ to F.U. This also represents the range of your blog readers. If all the comments were the way u want/prefer them to be, i’d be worried ur blog only caters to some elitists and fanboys.

    You can just accept reality and move on to writing more fantastic stuff, or keep ranting like a pissed off 12year old.

  20. Settle down GB. Give a damn to critics.

  21. Arnab,
    Grudging acknowledgement of an uneven temperament vis-a-vis film-appreciation [in the times of of IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes]counts for what? Zilch.
    As someone who is regularly patronized [pun intended] by the ‘non-aam’ janta, you owe it to the Bengalis ( Bhuter Bhobishyot) and the NRIs ( Good night Good Morning ) to talk about films that could make a dent but do not because of lack of publicity( amongst other things).But then, who cares about the future of good cinema in the Indian context?
    Counterargument- Having been around for years and having a million people read what you write does not mean that have to bear the cross, any cross for that matter; but really, there’s nothing cool about your proclivity for films like GUNDA. It’s just a statement of your tastelessness.

  22. In my opinion, the work of a reviewer is easy. We do not do anything much, but still have an upper hand over those whose works we are trying to judge up. We thrive on negative criticism, which is both fun to read and write…

  23. You must be a Chetan Bhagat fan! 😉

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