Between Reviews: Farewell

Posted on February 26, 2011


After eight years, your friendly neighbourhood film critic says thank you and goodbye.

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FEB 27, 2011BETWEEN REVIEWS BEGAN as a repository for thoughts in between the weekend reviews. And in this, the 134th installment, my last for this paper, I am finally bereft of thoughts. It’s far easier tackling the metaphysical implications of a sobering piece of art cinema made in Kazakhstan than it is to say goodbye. The saying itself isn’t difficult. It’s just one word. What’s difficult is the expression of the numerous emotions associated with that word. There’s first a profusion of thank-yous to be said – to the people at the paper for their unstinting allotment of valuable print space for the coverage of cinema, week after week, and to the readers who did what they are meant to do, namely read, and thus disproved theories about how increased exposure to the Internet is making us read less. Approving or otherwise, the letters from regular readers have always been a source of warmth, an indication that you’re not writing in a vacuum, that someone, somewhere is reading you. It’s like setting adrift a message in a bottle and getting a reply. Writing is one of the loneliest professions, and it’s the readers who assure you that you’re not alone.

These are not empty words. In this era of New Media, it’s much more convenient to look up my blog – or anyone else’s, for that matter – and leave a comment, an instant impression of your reaction to my writing that shows up instantly and is commented upon by others and gradually engulfed in an ongoing discussion (or a flame war; you cannot always predict how an innocent remark will feed the fires of argumentative individuals, and that’s part of what makes the interactiveness of the Web so much fun). But to actually read something in a newspaper and fill out a postcard or an inland letter – heaps of which used to descend upon the desk earlier, from which I used to claim the ones addressed to me; now, of course, most of the correspondence is through email – is nothing less than an act of generosity. Imagine this sequence of events: You read something. You register the desire to respond. You carry those thoughts with you to your computer or to your writing desk. You wrest precious moments from your life to write down those thoughts. And you mail the letter (or click on ‘Send’) to someone you don’t know, whose existence you wouldn’t be aware of were it not for the newspaper.

I have, to this day, a postcard where an irate SK Sharma from Visakhapatnam wrote: “Film reviews by Baradwaj Rangan are a bore. It is as if he is narrating the story of Mahabharata, lengthy, taking half page of Express. I feel it is better to see the picture itself as it will have an interval. Why not be brief and ultimately give a rating – good, don’t see, excellent, just see, boring, etc.” Well, his wish came true – at least one part of it. A ratings system was put in place, one I’ve struggled with, and I have written reams about this, so I’ll spare you further hand-wringing. But unfortunately, for Mr. Sharma, the reviews never became brief, thanks to my editors who believed in analysis over judgment. There is no greater friend to a film critic than an editor who likes films, and I’ve been very fortunate in that respect. The first review that appeared on these Sunday pages was for Yash Chopra’s Veer-Zaara. The last one is what appears today. I’ve enjoyed writing each and every one – well, almost, I think – and I thank everyone for the great ride. The train has stopped and it’s time to alight and carry on. And Mr. Sharma, I can’t wait to see if you get your other wish.

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