A panel discussion on the relevance of film reviews was held on the sixth day of the 13th Mumbai Film Festival. Filmmaker Nikhil Advani and film reviewers Mayank Shekhar, Bhawana Somaaya and Anupama Chopra were part of this discussion.
Chopra opened the debate by narrating how a film reviewer is often hated by the film fraternity. “As a reviewer, it is important not to get either jaded or cynical at the same time. You have to guard against allowing your prejudices to interfere with what you have taken away from the film,” she said.
She added, “I have been slammed for not liking Salman Khan’s films. I know films likle Bodyguard made a lot of money but, as a reviewer, I did not enjoy it. But Salman is an actor who does not care about reviews. I have often landed in difficult situations too.”
Chopra explained how she had penned a negative review of Priyanka Chopra’s film Anjaana Anjaani. She also had an interview lined up with the actress on the same day, which put Chopra in a tight spot.
Bhawana Somaya said that as a reviewer, one must be honest about in their reviews. She recounted how she had disapproved of the “toilet humour” in Aamir Khan’s Delhi Belly and was in an uncomfortable situation when she was asked about her opinion on the film by Khan himself. When she told the actor what she thought of his film, he said she wasn’t really his audience.
“When we watch a film, there is a certain credibility attached to the banner. So even if a film caters to a niche segment, everyone regardless of age goes watches it. That is what the reviewer keeps in mind while reviewing it.”
Mayank Shekhar brought out the fact that the biggest problem is with the ratings a reviewer assigns to a film. “If a film receives a two-and-a-half rating, I think the reviewer has been sitting on the fence and has not really been true to his review.”To this, Nikhil Advani remarked, “Thanks to social networking sites like Twitter, no one really takes all the reviews seriously. Everyone has an expert opinion on cinema.” He also said, “If a filmmaker says he doesn’t read reviews, he is obviously lying. He is not only keeping track of his own reviews but also of what reviewers have to say about his rivals’ films.”
The panel also spoke about the influence of actor’s publicists in the tone of a review. “Reviews are sometimes also very PR-oriented,” explained Somaya. But a good reviewer should always try not to fool the readers.
Shekhar concluded, “Films and cricket are similar, in this regard. Everyone has an opinion on them. But it is ultimately the reader who has to be judicious in their decisions.”