Bitty Ruminations 74

Time for a “Note to Self.”

The people who like what you write, the way you write, the people who understand where you come from, they’ll always read you. That’s not surprising, and the response to that can only be profound gratitude.

But when people who don’t care for what you write or the way you write, and who have nothing but contempt for what you do — when these people cannot stop talking about you, mentioning you in tweets and blog posts, barraging your comments space with comments and opinions knowing full well they are not going to be let through… That’s when you know you’ve really arrived.

When you apparently cannot be ignored even by those who cannot stand you, oh baby, the response to that can only be “I’m so flattered. Thanks for all the free publicity.”

PS: Keep your sights on the high road. And breathe.

PPS: And remember this story of Mullah Nasruddin.

90 thoughts on “Bitty Ruminations 74

  1. @brangan – Your book on Mani Ratnam was fantastic. Was it inspired from ‘Hitchcock by Truffaut’?
    Also, if you plan for another book, which film maker would you choose?Would love one on KB.


  2. For my friends and me, the day you won the National Film Award for Best Critic was the day you arrived. And how! We were loyal ‘fans’ of your reviews right from The New Indian Express days, but when the whole world started speaking about you, we felt terribly proud.

    But now, one has to have contempt for somebody else, to qualify ‘having arrived.’ Times have indeed changed. Your ‘PS’ is a good mantra for such situations I guess.


  3. What is this?A note to @Rameshram?
    As my wise gardener says ,don’t turn around every time a dog barks,you’ll never get to the ‘shaap'(bar) in time !!


  4. Ha! I don’t even have to hazard a guess as to who some of these vituperous “fans” are. Assuming the more scurrilous posters have already been barred at the gate, the comments section over the last couple of months provide ample evidence that it IS POSSIBLE to have a dissenting view and still put forth lucid, cogent and persuasive counter-points without resorting to condecension and acrimony.

    Keep on rocking B and when the bile rises to unacceptable levels, just remember: God Complex and Penis Envy are flip sides of the same coin:-)


  5. Oh, and a nice chuckle to start off the week: The Douchebag has proudly linked your Bitty Rumination to his….ahem…”journal”. The same one who tweeted his expulsion a few months ago.

    Attention whores are sooooo predictable…..


  6. Ace! In a weird serendipitous way, this is exactly what I needed to hear right now. Thanks Bard, for this and everything else.


  7. Well said Mr. Rangan.
    This actually reminds me of a line by Gurukan Desai in Guru where he says, “Jab log tumhare khilaaf baat kare, toh samajh lo ki tarakki kar rahe ho,”
    And yes, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On.’


  8. Seriously , keep your sights on the high road and breathe,breathe ,breathe!-Just for the record, it has been a pleasure to agree to disagree.I remember the first review I read of yours was cheeni kum and responded with a less sugar in the coffee analogy.Since then, I have always engaged with your writing and have broadened my film appreciation by adding some of the directors mentioned into my film collection.

    Enjoy the the end of the day, the work will speak for itself..

    Ride on that donkey into fim boulevard, head held high…!!


  9. But the weird thing is, we seldom meet people who are such assholes in real life. And the internet it seems to me, is burgeoning into a wonderful haven to house hordes of such kind.


  10. “Pada vimarisana puyal” Rangan vaaLga vaaLga!!!
    Daai. evandaa adhu enga thalaivana tuitterla kalaanjadhu..
    mavane kaila kedche dhars aaiduve..
    Thaanai thalaivan Rangan vaaLga VaaLgaa.

    “engirundhO vandhaan..
    critic jaadhi naan endraan..
    ingivanai yaam perave enna thavam
    seidhu vittOmm.. rangannnnn”

    @Thalaivar Rangan– nee kandukaadha thala.. andha bachchaa pasangaLa naanga
    raa muichu kodchal koduthu valailendhu verrti pudrom.


  11. I think people often tend to take the easy route by taking potshots at the writer than express profound counter arguments about what is written. But your writing is eagerly awaited by a lot of people and the rest better get in line.
    P.S: your book will finally fly overseas next month with folks from home. Thrilled!


  12. Anu Warrier: Yeah, but this kind of “popularity” is something else, I tell you :-)

    Kay Kay: Both rameshram (’nuff said) and hawkeye (whose attention is really beginning to border on the obsessive; he can’t seem to be able to breathe without invoking my name) seem to have reacted to this post on their blogs, but funnily enough, from the others I referred to, there’s been not a peep. I’m impressed. :-)

    SK: You’re welcome. Any particular reason for the use of that Magritte?

    venkatesh: Oh, this was just the result of a bad morning. Once in a long while, you just have to vent. At this rate, my next such post will be in mid-2014.

    Adarsh: Seriously, man. It’s as if some people put on a face for the public and save all their hidden and pent-up nastiness for the Internet. It’s shocking the levels to which some people can stoop to, the words they can use. Like Kay Kay says, it must all be one giant cry for attention.

    vpjaiganesh: hahahahaha! ennai indha simmaasanathil amara vaitha rasigar perumakkalukku kodi nandri, and all that. thanks for the morning laughs.

    meera: thank you.


  13. “Both rameshram (’nuff said) and hawkeye (whose attention is really beginning to border on the obsessive; he can’t seem to be able to breathe without invoking my name) ”

    how do you get to know this? Iam curious. Its one thing for them to be obsessive with your posts. But do you have to go and read everything that they write about you all the time? You seem to share some of the same problems of not being being able to ignore them for whatsoever reason. Despite the fact that they are in a very small minority.


  14. vijay: Oh. I have plenty of annoying “well wishers” who make sure that they send me comments and emails with links. And my blog also shows me who’s linked to my stuff. So even if I don’t actively seek out this information (I don’t even follow anyone on Twitter), it seems to come and find me.


  15. Both you and Adarsh have made good points about the Internet bringing out the Hyde in some people. I think the larger conversation is about how, providing as it does a sounding board that’s seemingly limitless in capacity and reach, the Net stimulates and encourages the narcissism that was already there in the first place.

    Go to The Hawk’s blog, and you get this humbling intro:

    I am the essence of overconfidence! I am speculation, adventure; the spirit of pursuit; the stag howling for its winsome yet anonymous mate. I am the love call of evolution; the perfume and color of the flowers as they offer their pollen to the gentle buzz of the bees. I am sex itself, gentlemen. I am life. I am appetite!

    Then stroll over to The Ram’s …ahem…cough…”journal” and you get this paean to humility:

    now graced by visits from the US Department of Defense, USAISC(The US millitary communications war command HQ) the The New York times, New York State Attorney general;s office, Apple (to look at my tech Gadget essentials), US house of representatives, The department of Homeland security and The Canadian ministry of education. and The office of the commissioner for baseball {why The Vatican, Guruvayoor Devaswom Board and United Nations were left out is a bit of a head-scratcher}

    It can be argued of course that these guys have their tongues planted firmly in cheek, but the almost constant mode of derision they operate in with respect to your posts(in this regard, the Ram’s a bigger offender) seems to point towards some pretty whacked-out insecurity issues.


  16. BR: This is a never ending chain. You criticize bad directors/movies, other bloggers criticize you, some others criticize your critics, they are criticized by some others and so on.

    Just move on


  17. You noticed!? Dang!! Credit goes to my wife who drew parallels with the icon, and my face – which, she alleges, is hidden behind the phone most of the time. This is me, paying my dues.


  18. Have not yet seen Kadal, so will watch and then read your review.

    But, generally you don’t worry about these much. The last I remember was when Hawkeye wrote something about your bullet point review of 7am arivu and you followed it with “The colossal cost of comments” (a personal favorite) where you say that everyone has the right to an opinion since they are giving a slice of my time.

    So, what happened this time? Is it the comments in Kadal review or the comments end up being moderated out? Just curious.

    BTW, did you see David. I saw the Tamil version, did not like Jiva portions (have never been a fan of him), but thoroughly enjoyed Vikram’s performance. Will you be reviewing / Bitty Ruminating about it?


  19. BR,

    You leave out a third category of people. People like me who are followers of the ‘deliverable’ (movie reviews in this case) as opposed to the Deliverer (yourself or a movie critic in general).

    I read Hawkeye’s posts and your reviews regularly.

    I see a lot of instances where he’s justified in saying that your review is elitist and in some cases where he’s wrong – where I feel the level of eloquence, extrapolation and articulation are necessary, beautiful and even inspirational. A lot of your posts have me thinking – I wish I could say things like that too!

    However, By blindly opposing any ciritic of your work – you’re being recursively hypocritical. The other effect is that you’re creating a partisan world with your followers and your haters and leaving no scope for the sensible middle.

    I’d like to remain an objective fan of your work – which means I’d like to say it’s wonderful or it sucks in whatever tone and verbiage I choose, using my discretion – where do folks like me fit in ?

    – Venkat


  20. Kay Kay: ROFL! You miss those fisticuffs, don’t you? :-)

    Padawan: Just a vent, man. People need to do that from time to time. Will be reviewing David. Saw the Hindi version though, because I had an idea it would work much better nativity-wise than the Tamil version. (And from what people said, my hunch was right.)

    lvraghavan: I am not opposing anyone. Nor am I asking my readers not to read anyone else’s stuff. If I don’t care for someone’s writing, I ignore it. For instance, I don’t go to Hawkeye’s blog and he’s free to return the favour. It’s a huge blog-world out there and life’s too short to be wasting time reading stuff you’re not interested in.

    But to read something you don’t care for and then get incensed and call people names is, IMO, a waste of time, and — to the recipient of those names — sometimes annoying. This was one of those times. I was annoyed. I let off some steam. I’m good.

    BTW, till I saw a blog post link in my WordPress page (a reaction to this post), I didn’t even know hawkeye had written something about me, as the last post of his I read was a review of my book, which was a fair one. Don’t know why everyone thinks this post is about him.

    And no, I don’t think there’s anything wrong in being an elitist. I haven’t exactly led a life tilling the soil and milking cows and slapping dung patties on the wall. I am what my circumstances have made me, and I’m not going to apologise for that. All points of view are valid, and I’m just another guy with just another opinion. I never claimed to deliver anything more. Please continue being an objective reader.


  21. cool, just to clear off things, I don’t think this post is about Hawkeye or any of your other critics. I am just more interested in our instinct to react to the tone as opposed to the content. Is there any chance that behind all that vitriol from your ‘critics’ – there may be valid feedback ? Do you seek that ? Or is it just a matter of – I don’t like this guy’s tone, so he must be wrong…Not that either approach is right or wrong – just asking ?

    PS : I probably should not have used the word ‘opposed’ in my previous bad!


  22. lvraghavan: For me, tone is also content, just as in cinema form is also substance. I don’t know how much you’ve read of me, but many commenters disagree with me and some of them use strong language (see the “Vazhakku Enn…” post, for instance), and that’s all par for the course. And though some stuff may sting, there may be something valid to it, which will sink in a little later.

    But I’m not going to go to someone else’s blog and read something that stings. Someone posted a link to (or maybe they copy-pasted it) hawkeye’s “7-aum arivu” review, and the minute I saw the words “elitist fool” I was outta there. Nothing he said after that was of interest to me.

    I’m a “sorry” and “please” and “thank you” kinda guy in life, and I try to avoid nastiness to the extent possible. I cannot avoid it on my blog, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to seek out insults. Because then you get all riled up and say things in the heat of the moment, and then he retaliates and it gets ugly. No one benefits from this sort of crap.

    That’s why I don’t subscribe to anyone’s Twitter feed, because that’s a very in-the-heat-of-the-moment medium, and I don’t want to say something I’ll end up regretting.

    As I said in this post, “breathe” is something I do a lot, after yoga and green tea and before mailing off a cheque to sustain the classical arts. I guess that’s considered elitist these days? :-)


  23. and see, I have had so many quarrels on the interwebs. I have fouhgt amrita rajan, passion for cinema, a couple of independant forums here in the US, yatcatra yatcatra.. I have quarrelled with raja sen (who still runs miles, evn though most of his film star/ director drinking buddies still continue to write to me) , Asseem chabbra, David chute(but I hit on his daughter…so that’s different) and about five or six other critics. I , as a rule NEVER go back to their pages/forums/blogs after because I have their number and have no interest in engaging with them. You on the other hand, sue,, sound so immature that it I think it is more like some misplaced concern for you that I sort of visit you again.

    you are so frail in your knowledge / academic fortification…and think so highly of yourself that I know its only going to be a matter of time before you do serious damage to yourself…..and I want to be there when it happens.


  24. Wow, I didn’t read for a week and I come back to this ! :)

    I’ve known you a long time and you have always been very patient and reasonable, very difficult to get an impulsive reaction out of, so the steps you have taken, I’m sure, were after the last straw or actually probably beyond that. I’m happy you vented out and did what you had to.

    People will have differing opinions but you have to do what is right for you and makes you comfortable. You know, it is your blog – we all our very possessive and proud of it but it is your blog !


  25. BR, I am reminded of Paul Krugman who keeps taking immense pleasure from how may people he keeps pissing off on a daily basis. Soldier on man.

    I seem to have a problem. I typed in a long comment on your kadal review and it seems to have vanished. Am damned if I have to retype it again :-(


  26. I get the feeling that some of your readers are uncomfortable with the fact that you’re human. Can’t even rant in peace.

    Yes, breathe, ignore and go listen to some cryptic Gulzar songs. :-)


  27. i wonder if section 66A can be evoked in this case. I realise u would be busy or would be easily forgiving, so won’t be filing any case. But i just wonder if that section can be invoked here


  28. Sir, you are already a celebrity. Arrived and all long before!

    You interpret movies, they way you see them. And whatever you do, a whole lot of people find it interesting. That’s why the hits and the comments. To try to pocket your opinion as right or wrong is just downright silly because errr… it’s an opinion. And people who do this are best ignored

    I have not seen Kadal. However, I find it annoying how defensive people are getting about the movie’s not-so-good reviews, especially those part of the movie team, so active in twitter. The movie can be great, but still can be a failure, in the traditional sense (collections, etc.), if you understand what I mean.

    Also, I guess as an actor, lyricist, etc., it is upto the creative guys to be ok with all kinds of reviews. Instead, getting back with something like ‘I liked my interpretation of the movie’ (guess that was a lyricist’s comment as a reply to someone saying that he/she didn’t like the movie) is so unprofessional and unbecoming of an artiste.

    As a critic, you can like/dislike a movie. That’s what is your bread and butter. However, for a creative artiste to be so defensive is not too good, is it? At best, as a polite person, we can disagree with bad reviews. But to say that ‘I liked my interpretation’ sounds really haughty (as a creator).


  29. “ROFL! You miss those fisticuffs, don’t you?”

    Well, given The Ram’s severe limitations as a writer, at some point it was like shooting fish in a barrel. An argument or debate quickly loses any sense of excitement and vigor when the only reponse your opponent can lob at you is “froth froth” :-)


  30. Mullah Omar also had arrived at some point…It is not a great thing…
    so, don’t evaluate just by that…Or by the praises…

    It depends on what kind of people you want to praise you


  31. rameshram: “and I want to be there when it happens” — So this is why you keep bombarding my comments space with comments that won’t get through. But this one was worth letting through. Aha! What noble sentiments!

    Seriously, though, if and when that downfall happens, you can still watch it from a distance and pop open the champagne and rub your hands with glee. I don’t see why you have to continue to comment on such a regular basis, many times a day. Given that only I see them, it’s as if you’re unable to carry on without having daily (and one-sided) chats with me… But then Kay Kay probably has your number for the reason you’d do these things.

    athreya: Your comments landed in my spam folder — two of them. So put both up (there were some minor variations, so if you want one taken down, let me know).

    Tina: “I find it annoying how defensive people are getting about the movie’s not-so-good reviews, especially those part of the movie team…” Come on, that’s natural, right? Anyone will want to defend his/her baby. Eventually they may be okay with the reviews, but this is still early days and they are bound to be sensitive about bad feedback.


  32. Poor you Brangan! As always, certain folks love picking on/trying to tear down the nicest, most harmless people. I’m a mostly silent reader of your blog that thinks very highly of you – you’re a good guy Brangan – that’s why you’re attracting a particularly scummy segment of humankind. It is hilarious that Rameshram writes to you on a daily basis – don’t read that shit anymore if it is getting you down.

    On a complete tangent, I’ve been dying to ask – how was it interacting with Mani? What kind of a person is he? Tell us something interesting about him pleaaaaase. I haven’t been able to get a hold of your book yet – throw me a bone here!


  33. “So this is why you keep bombarding my comments space with comments that won’t get through”

    Oh oh…is he still at it? Persistent comments, calling you “sue” (creepy), the “jilted lover” tone of his post above…methinks The Ram has a massive man-crush on you, bro (feel some envy here, always thought I was the one he was crushing on)

    He’s starting to look like (late) Murali (the Tamil one) with this “Oru Thalai Raagam” persistence.

    Somewhere he’s probably humming, “Oru Mani Adithal Kanne Un Nyabagam” :-)


  34. As someone who’s been reading you for the better part of 6 years, I’d like to point out that there have been many times where I have disagreed with your review. In the past, when I was probably less mature, I have often cursed you as an “arrogant intellectual” after reading some of your reviews. The ones that immediately come to mind are your reviews for the Nolan blockbusters The Dark Knight and Inception. My dad and I have often considered some of your reviews as “reading too much” into the film. But the one thing we’ve never done is vent our anger out on your blogs or choose to personally go at your for having an opinion. If I didn’t agree with your opinion or like what I read, I just ignored it. I stopped reading the Inception and TDK reviews after about the first paragraph. That is probably the way to go for someone who finds the content of your reviews not to their liking.

    Of course, that is not applicable anymore because, after all these years of reading your output, I’ve sort of become accustomed to the way you work, and whether I agree or disagree with your review, I always make it a point to seek them out because I find what you have to say interesting. Les Miserables is a recent example because everything you disliked about the film was exactly why I liked it so much, not being a fan of the usual musicals. Again, if I think I can make an argument out of it, I probably comment on the review I disagree with, if not, I move on to the next article. Life is much simpler that way.


  35. Oops, reading back on my comment, I realize that the “arrogant intellectual” might be sort of offensive. I was just pointing out that that was my perception of reading your reviews at the time. As you might know, this has changed since, and I’ve realized that not everyone sees the same film and your review is just your reactions to the film. Just wanted to make it a bit clearer.


  36. Thanks BR. Let those two comments be there. It will serve as a reminder to me how I cannot recall all that I said just five minutes after saying it.


  37. as far as reading too much into a film accusation is concerned, i think that is in
    the job description. Else please stick to Suntb
    thirai vimarisanam or n star ratings(which i never understand). if content is the king, then we need a critic to peer into those layers. period.


  38. The ultimate battle between the elitist fool and the populist star; one man hanging on to dear life by a rope while the other wails at being driven to let him fall: who is the real victor? Will a young writer rise to save them both from their destinies? Watch Kadal 2: On Stronger Tides!


  39. Rangan,

    I read both you and hawkeye regularly. Beyond the “elitist fool” part of it, he does have a good counter(in the 7am arivu article), though his own style is crude which I agree. In my view it sometimes might help if you are ready to look beyond and understand where your detractor comes from. But I don’t agree with the tone of his latest post though – the vacuous nature of it is to simply take a jibe at you as a person than talk anything about the content you created.

    I admire your writing very much though I don’t always side with your interpretations. You bring out nuances that I seldom see in other Indian movie reviewers. I guess the point that sometimes riles people like hawkeye(even I used to wonder before but I am used to it now) is whether you’re being(or should you be) consistent to all creators in your analyses. Why is it that MR always deserves a deep down subtext mining while a Shankar might not? Is it because it’s non-existent in Shankar’s or whether *you* chose not to see it? I know what you’ll say – “When I see a movie, it’s my instinct that drives me to do what I do”. And it’s perfectly acceptable as I see it. But I do also see why some people might sense bias here.

    That also brings a larger question – do writers like yourself have a responsibility to “take care” of cinema? Because through your writing you can easily bring down what is a perceived popular movie and you can also shore up a poorly marketed, albeit a very different movie.


  40. I comment rarely, but been a long-time reader, belonging more to the first camp of people who like what you write. I may not agree with all your reviews but you have explained enough times how you think of the role of the critic: giving your own reaction to the movie, rather than a “Go watch / don’t watch” approach which a lot of people crave. Those views are often what I find interesting, even in cases I disagree with them. So keep going, rather than having to change your tone to reach out to the second camp, something which will never be successful in the first place.

    P.S: Do you get stats measuring your ‘popularity’ ? I am curious how its changed over the years, if there were a few reviews which triggered greater readership, how much of a bump there was after that award, etc. A potential future BR maybe?


  41. There’s something Quentin Tarantino told Entertainment Weekly magazine about Martin Scorsese. “If I say [his] movies are getting kind of geriatric and everything, he can say, ‘F— you, man! I’m doing what I want to do, I’m following my muse,’ and he’s 100 per cent right. I’m in my church praying to my god and he’s in his church praying to his. There was a time we were in the same church, and I miss that.” That’s regrettably how I feel about much of Maniratnam’s moviestoday, and I think I speak for a fair number of his fans who worshipped the great man in the 1970s through the early 1990s.

    Read this in Bold Fonts:

    The congregation has shrunk to a cult, with only a handful of dogged devotees still keeping the faith

    It’s worth repeaeting:
    The congregation has shrunk to a cult, with only a handful of dogged devotees still keeping the faith
    (Again, hope you read it in Bold)

    Heck, let’s rub it in:
    The congregation has shrunk to a cult, with only a handful of dogged devotees still keeping the faith
    (In Bold Type Face, of course)


  42. I regularly visit your blogs and consume all what you write. I enjoy reading your blogs, both for form & flow but less for the contents (the reason for that might be that I am shallow in facts). The reasoning which you apply rather than the verdict you pass is of interest to me. Opinion is always flavored and equating it with fact dose not make sense. By the way, one thing which you have mentioned that you stop reading an article once you spot words like “elitist fool” in an article seems untrue. How could you not be tempted to finish that article out of curiosity to spot more such epithets. You might want to read the rest in order to convince yourself that this man is ignorant or in order to get persuaded by his logic. One would adopt your approach in face to face conversation and would stop listening once offended etc but how could you abruptly stop reading when you are within the confines of your home when no one is watching…
    Other things apart, great post as usual !


  43. BB: What surprised me was his punctuality. I’ve never interacted with a film personality who’d say 2 pm, and be in his office 15 minutes before that :-) As for the rest, most of the dynamics is in the book. You just have to read it a little carefully :-)

    oneWithTheH: Since you agree that his style is crude, there’s nothing more to be said. As I said in a comment above, Tone = Content, and if the tone doesn’t appeal to me, I’m not going to read anything further.

    About the tone of his latest post, which you say “the vacuous nature of it is to simply take a jibe at you as a person than talk anything about the content you created,” again, only he knows what he’s after? Drawing readers through a controversy? Or maybe he’s just the kind of guy who likes to needle people and get off. Don’t know. Don’t care. And even if there had been genuine criticism there, I wouldn’t be reading it.

    “I admire your writing very much though I don’t always side with your interpretations.”

    You don’t have to. And — more importantly — you WON’T. Just because a movie affects me in a particular way because of a personal experience, doesn’t mean it will affect you the same way, or you’ll see it the same way. Because you may not have had a similar personal experience.

    For instance, friend of mine was deeply, deeply affected by “Vaaranam Aayiram,” because his father passed away just a little before that film’s release, and he disagreed with my diss of Suriya’s performance as the father.

    BTW, I just looked up what I wrote about it here — — and it could almost be about “Kadal” :-)

    I don’t know why we forget that movies are deeply personal experiences — at least, if you take cinema seriously — and expect consensus, and if we deviate from that consensus then that view is seen as suspect. Two of the films I received the most “what was he smoking” feedback about were “Saawariya” and “No Smoking.” But what can I do? The films really spoke to me! And if I didn’t explain how they really spoke to me, and if I went with popular opinion instead, wouldn’t I be lying?

    As to why MR deserves what you call “deep down subtext mining while a Shankar might not,” it’s simple. And let me explain this through the example of Bala, another filmmaker whose work I admire. Only one film of Bala’s has really worked for me in the sense of (a) having a great storyline, plus (b) affecting performances, plus (c) packing an emotional wallop (even though I have some issues about the suddenness of the end), and (d) having nothing that sticks out and being a “clean narrative.” And that film is “Sethu.”

    But that’s actually his simplest film, and as he’s grown with ambition, his films have become less about “like” and “dislike,” or “good” or “bad,” and more about being “interesting” — for the scope of their ideas, for the way he handles situations and characters. I am riveted each time I watch”Avan Ivan” even though from an “is it a perfect film” standpoint, it’s far from it. It’s full of jagged edges.

    Like I said in my “Kadal” review: “Your tolerance for the inevitable rough edges, I suppose, will determine your response to the film.” How this can be taken as a gung-ho endorsement of the film really baffles me. I mean, yes, you get the sense that *I* found the film interesting. But where am I offering some sense of popular verdict?

    Anyway, coming back to the topic, how how do you write about such a film? If you’re the kind of writer who wants to give the reader an overall perspective, you’d probably say “not bad” or something like that. But for me the “overall” evaluation isn’t of importance. If there are five good things and five okay things and five bad things, then I just state them as I saw them and wrestle with them so I come to grips with these things, and leave the reader to take away whatever he wants to take away. (And it’s funny to me, sometimes, when someone will say that I “raved” about a film, when according to me, I’d have had a genuinely conflicted opinion about it.)

    That’s why I tried out the Bullet-point Report format for a while, so I just state the five good things, the five okay things, the five bad things, without bothering with overarching narrative attempts. I thought it was the truest representation of how I watch and react to films. But, as we all know the format was a huge flop :-)

    So what I’m saying is that MR, Bala, Selvaraghavan, Mysskin, Vettrimaaran, Anurag Kashyap, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Dibakar Banerjee, Vishal Bhardwaj and Kamal Haasan and some others make films that — at least in my eyes — offer themselves up for various readings, regardless of the “overall” quality of their films. Shankar, on the other hand, makes much simpler films (and I’m not saying that a simple film is an inferior film; just that there’s nothing much happening below the surface, because everything is spelled out, and even the visuals are pretty direct; there’s zero ambiguity, nothing “unsaid;” for instance, in Shankar’s version of “Kadal,” we’d see a flashback that explained why Arvind Swamy came to be a priest, instead of his just standing silent when the question is asked, and that’s a very different and very valid way of making a movie).

    “through your writing you can easily bring down what is a perceived popular movie and you can also shore up a poorly marketed, albeit a very different movie” — I don’t think so. I think you overestimate my popularity and also the critic’s influence on a moviegoing public. Someone who writes short reviews and awards stars is more likely to influence people.

    Andy: The only kind of stats I get are what WordPress sends me at the year end, and I put that up some time ago. But yes, I do seem to be attracting some new readers now.

    raj: When did I say otherwise? Or claim that I was in the majority? :-) You, on the other hand, got all kinds of upset about that post. I have no problem with the fact that my estimation of MR is at variance with yours, or perhaps everyone else’s.

    Narender Mehra: Perhaps I have ridiculous amounts of self control :-) Also, I’m a very phlegmatic kind of person, the reason for chotte saab’s amazement above :-)


  44. Yes, of course I got upset with that post.But, not as you assume, for some perceived loss for Raja. I was upset at your descent to lazy writing, and half-baked theorising. I had better hopes from you. Let’s not try to twist thatto a different meaning, shall we, sir?


  45. So.

    Why even engage? Why have a comment section? Everyone’s going to have their own opinion at the end of the day and (mostly) won’t change it after reading a review. Unless they agree with you. And if anyone hadta let you know what they think, they could mail you, non? In which case..Filters!

    Btw, big fan of your writing.


  46. This is a good point , why even engage ?

    I think that bloggers(non-corporate) ones tend to fall into 3 categories

    People who write for themselves (clearing their heads as they say) , i have seen a few who are really erudite and present cogent arguments but heep their comment space closed. They could care less what you think of them.
    The class-clown , people who like taking pot-shots from the sideline , i would place Herr Professor in this category. They are there to attract attention of whatever kind. These folks are a dime a dozen , they enliven the environment but there is no long-term benefit or loss from them.
    The elusive civilized discourser – people who want to engage, indulge and actually even learn something. This is a rare-breed , i sort of think of this as the equivalent of a drawing-room discussion with coffee and cigars. There can be heated arguments but name-calling is still looked down upon. I think of BR belonging to this category. Having an audience is important for him.

    Thats my 2 pennies – i have been thinking about this for a while now – hence the long reply.


  47. Pavitra/venkatesh: I think it’s worthwhile having a comments space even if 10 per cent of the commenters come up with good insights. — like Karthik’s in the “Kadal” review. It’s important to know that there are people out there who care strongly about cinema, and one way to know that is when they comment. And email is too one-sided. It doesn’t let the others take off from a comment, hopefully in a positive way, discussing rather than dissing.

    And sometimes it’s just nice to know what people felt, getting a sense of the community that reads you. That compensates for a lot of the crap.


  48. I can’t resist commenting on this post. Although, I have been,for reasons unbeknownst to me, shy of writing comments at your blog, despite being your voracious reader since your oldest blog (before desipundit). When you say that filmmakers such as Bala,MR offer themselves up for various readings, I am curious to understand how you draw the lakshman rekha between the person and his movies. For instance, when I saw Vishwaroopam, ( no, I am not giving away any spoilers here), I was quite affected by a certain world-view which he projected through the movie, which seemed inconsistent with some of his writings (tamil poems) I have read. While I was quite piqued by your observation in your book that your film-reviewing focus is strictly on the tale and not the teller, I am eager to know how do you differentiate between the tale and the teller? Allow me to philosophize further on this. Strangely, in life, while we learn – or experience teaches us- to look at a person rather than the stories he narrates,in movies, we choose to do the exact opposite!


  49. there is a mini thesis on recursive ad-hominem somewhere here.

    Y says “film is good not because of the content of the movie but because director is abc kind of person who trying to say pqr in the subtext”

    X says “Y says movie is good not because the movie is good but because Y is xyz kind of a person with pqr ulterior motive”

    Y says “X criticizes not because my content is bad but because X is abc kind of person with a hidden abc motive”

    Z says “Y is abc kind of person and X is mnq kind of person and they both have xyz hidden agenda and that is why they are saying what they are really saying ”

    And so on..

    On a separate note from brangan’s comment on the Kadal Review

    /*Kadull: Yup, that’s exactly how I function. And my positive reviews of “Saawariya” and “Not a Love Story” and “Aayirathil Oruvan” and “Neethane En Ponvasantham” and “Jhoom Barabar Jhoom” were because of my collaborations with those filmmakers.*/

    In Thanjavur court one person argued that his bribe to the thasildhar be excused because he had no motive or intention to bribe when he paid water tax, corporation tax, road tax, house tax to the respective department collection agencies in the preceeding months.

    I think this fallacy has a name.


  50. Venky: What I mean is that the only thing you have before you to base your inferences on is the tale. The teller’s motives are more mysterious, and we have no way of concretely addressing those. What’s in front of us on screen is all the “evidence” we need.

    Hawkeye: So despite your professed contempt for my views, you not only read all the posts but also every single comment underneath them, plus you can’t seem to stop talking about me or leaving comments on my blog? Wow!

    I think this condition has a name.


  51. I would have expected you to have read my comment but then I have my faults too :-)

    To answer your question – I don’t want to commit to having contempt for all your views. I don’t know what the future holds. I usually take it one post at a time. Do I have contempt for certain kind of views you’ve expressed in the past ? Maybe. Contempt for this review of yours? Definitely so. However, I open to not having a contemptuous view at some other point in time. It really depends on what you write. I don’t have anything else to go by.

    To answer your second question: I do like to read thoroughly before expressing contempt or appreciation. I usually don’t express contempt on something that I haven’t read. Its like a habit. I am sure you are familiar with it. I have never seen you trash a movie that you haven’t seen. I don’t criticize you for seeing it in the first place.

    I have written 1000+ posts in my blog. I think the count of my posts about you is probably 3. I don’t read all your posts. Just the ones that I want to. And you know as well as I do that the number of my comments in your blog are probably in low single digits. So lets not kid ourselves that this is personal. You are neither Ambani nor am I Gurumurthy. This is the internet. Take downs are common.

    Treat the two imposter alike.


  52. Film critic’s review banned

    Noted film critic’s next opus titled ‘Review on Vishwaroopam’ has been banned by the state government. An online group going by the name of Rabid Baradwaj Detractors (recursively called RaBiDs) has approached the state machinery asking for a ban. Their spokesperson (whose name could not be ascertained) said “Though we haven’t read the review, we believe that certain paragraphs can hurt the sentiments of other online film critics. Also, given that Baradwaj has not been granted an interview with the Ulaganayagan, there is reason to believe that the review will be biased and have a negative tone”.

    An online bystander Mani was heard muttering “It is a review for fucks sake. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. Or better still, avoid the blog. If reviewers wielded power, the real cultural terrorists like Sajid Khan will not make movies like Housefull2. And Kadal would be a hit”. Incidentally, statistics show that the number of people who read and debated the Kadal review was way more than the actual number of people who saw Kadal. Which might explain why it tanked at the box office.

    In related news, another fringe group called Movement Against Intellectual Reviews (pronounced Mayir) approached the court for a ban on lengthy reviews. Their spokesperson said “Ideally we want reviews to have just 3 words – ‘Go watch it’ or ‘Don’t watch it’. If the court doesn’t listen to our pleas we plan to intensify our protests and ask for 2 word reviews – ‘Watch it’ or ‘Stay away’. On second thoughts maybe we will ask for one word reviews – ‘See’ or ‘Avoid’.


  53. brangan – Hawkeye’s logic is unbelievably precise. You are the nicer person. But you can’t diss his logic there.
    “I gave a ‘positive’ review for Saaanwariya is not attributable to personal colloboration with those directors. Therefore, my ‘positive’ review for Kadal is also not attributable to personal colloboration with Munirathnam. ”
    In other words
    A- “There are positive reviews of mine without colloboration with resp directors”
    B – “Kadal I gave apositive review”
    Therefore, my Kadal review is not positive because of colloboration with the director previously.

    This is logically wrong.

    (even if the conclusion you draw – namely that you have been impartial and the ‘positive’ review is not due to colloboration with Mani – turns out to be correct)

    If I am not lazy, I could cite previous instances of you committing the same fallacy, especially when frazzled with comments that dont take a sycophantic or atleast, polite tone.

    This doesn’t amount to being obsesed with you or following you obsessively. For instance, I came to your site after quite some time, and commented along these lines(i.e.) finding fault with you, after a long time. But you may be entitled to think that I spend my day and night thinking about your blog and your posts. That wouldn’t be true, though.


  54. It may be that people come here given your reputation as the “only film critic worth taking seriously in India” but once they engage with your material, find nothing of merit, other than these aspects. Why blame them?


  55. Mind you, if you’d prefer to hear only positive comments or mildly tangential comments which do not point out any logical errors in your postulations or do not freely submit to your unimpeachable integrity and not question any of your motives, I guess we could all pool together and post only those, if only to make you happy. Your prose is still good, you see, and it is possible to still read your articles purely for the prose.


  56. And (while you are going to gloat at my obsession over your great writing – because of posting 4 comments in 30 minutes- “Who other than someone obsessed with me will post 4 comments in 30 minutes’ I can hear your unbelievably logical mind thinking) if someone has the time and inclination, why shouldn’t he read all your posts and comments beneath them even if he professes contempt at you?

    Logically, is there anything that precludes a person having contempt for you reading your posts(every one of them).


  57. “Oh. I have plenty of annoying “well wishers” who make sure that they send me comments and emails with links. And my blog also shows me who’s linked to my stuff. So even if I don’t actively seek out this information (I don’t even follow anyone on Twitter), it seems to come and find me.”

    Why can’t you block-out those “well-wishers”? If you are so noble, you can still delete their mails? Ignore the links your blog shows? Ask your wellwishers to just send “positive” reviews of your reviews?


  58. In your “Kadal” review, you hinted about a sequel to “Conversations with Mani Ratnam.” Everyone else is hinting at that too. Even if Mani makes a spectacular movie next and you say it is good, people cannot be faulted for insinuating a kick back. May be there is a kickback. May be there is none. But there is fertile ground for suspecting a conflict of interest. If you’d refrained from writing a full review you’d have disarmed your detractors.

    The thing is “Kadal” is a bad movie. At least according to most people, some of who drove through a snow storm for 40 miles, to watch it in a theater and desperately wanted to like it. I get the subjectivity with liking or not liking a movie but the variance in subjectivity (“7aam Arivu” was bullet-point bad. “Vazhakku En 18/9” was bad but mysteriously “Kadal” is good) can be intriguing, to some people.

    The professional idiot Sudhish Kamath appears to believe a professional reviewer or critic has superpowers perspectives which the regular audience has no clue about. May be there is such a thing. Bar the remote chance it does, it is difficult to understand why “Kadal” is good or why its review is positive.


  59. ok Hawkeye is channelling GMAT reasoning preparation into his debating style..he deserved to get banned ..Ramesh Ram’s meanderings OTOH are like the self styled rappers you run across on Subway stations ..narcissistic, seldom logical but entertaining nonetheless.
    If I were you, I would be more tired of questions of the well meaning folks – who you have painstakingly answered for example on the question of bias -.your infinite patience with this lot amazes me.


  60. Rangan, I understand the need to vent about the irritation of having people who dislike/are displeased at what you write or even who you are, but why give them the satisfaction of replying to them? That they would come to your blog to comment adversely on this post is a given; when you respond, you are just pandering to them. Remember that old saying? For those who understand, no explanation is necessary. For those who don’t, no explanation is possible. Misquote that to suit your circumstances, shrug the naysayers off, and yes, breathe. *grin*

    Have been reading you for a very, very long time, and am always interested in what you have to say, even when I disagree. Actually, *especially* when I disagree. Because it causes me to look into my own biases (which I haven’t owned until then) and see where it might make sense to look at a movie in another way. For that, I thank you.


  61. Hawkeye: “So lets not kid ourselves that this is personal.” At least you seem to have got the “kidding oneself” part right.

    Anu Warrier: You’re right, of course. Now shoo away, you sycophant.

    raj: “while you are going to gloat at my obsession over your great writing…” er, the thought didn’t even cross my mind because I’m familiar with how obsessive you get (not wrt me but wrt to commenting on posts sometimes; though not as often anymore.) You must really think I’m some kind of megalomaniac. I’m quite touched :-)

    S: But isn’t there an ocean of difference between calling “Kadal” a great movie or a masterpiece or some such thing and looking at it in the context of a creator’s career and analysing it in that respect? I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t had problems with certain aspects of the film, especially towards the end. But what about weaving these problems — acknowledging them, yes, but also putting them aside after that acknowledgement to concentrate on the larger perspective?

    And forget the “what people say” viewpoint. That’s beyond one’s control. I’m just curious what you think about this.

    Rahul: Ironically, this post isn’t even about him entirely. But I guess you live and learn.


  62. What have you done baradwaj rangan, bringing out these trolls together?

    I enjoy your comment space. Except for the one troll ( they have varied from period to period) whose comments I skip anyway. Quite a few commentators genuinely like films beyond the star craze that seems to dominate the online space otherwise.It is a pretty neat.

    I havent watched Kadal, I didnt appreciate Raavanan even found it slightly on the vacuous side ( have seen it only once). But the moment I started reading other KAdal reviews even before reading yours, I knew you would have liked it.

    It just seems to be the space you are in, from saawariya( which i didnt really hate but might have if i saw it in theatres) to raavanan or Kadal now.

    For all the bias people are insinuating your positive review is due to the book, I didnt even find the book filled with positive views. ( whole dissing the patriotism of roja and so on..),

    What I am saying is, I might not agree with you on these films but you have been consistent.


  63. LOL @ Mani’s comment. And Hawkeye thinks hes’s “taken down” Brangan ahahaha. These people womygawd! I second Rahul in that Rangan has infinite patience.


  64. “Logically, is there anything that precludes a person having contempt for you reading your posts(every one of them).”

    Logically, no (why does logic come in here BTW?). Behaviorally? Something is wrong. If I feel someone is consistently penathufying, is biased(towards his collaborators) and on top of that also exhibits elitist tendencies (think of Charu Nivedita’s views on music and IR here for all 3 aspects) I wouldn’t exactly rush to buy his book and read from end to end and still spit venom about him in my blogs(which is what Hawkeye did). Unless the reasoning happens to be ” I hate that bastard so much that I want to read every post of his and try to find something that looks not right to me so that I can make some noise”, in which case it becomes a different kind of unhealthy obsession


  65. @Mani – Thanks for the laugh. What scares me though, is that it just might come true, given people’s penchant for taking offence, and for the courts to step in deal with minor irritants giving the go-by to more serious matters!


  66. raj: thanks for suggesting something I should have done a long time ago. the relevant people have been blocked and directed to spam. sometimes the most obvious things don’t strike me.

    vijay: thank you for making that distinction between logic and behaviour. i was saying something along the same lines.


  67. Vijay – really? Has hawkeyeview really been spitting venom at Brangan as you claim? As he himself pointed out 3/1000 posts on Rangar suggest otherwise.

    That apart, I find this need for Brangar to “other” out his critics curious. If he didnt really care, why so much public angst?
    Kadal Review, follow up, follow up to follow up expressing precisely this angst at his critics.Those claims about not caring about his critics are clearly hollow.


  68. raj: Just curious. There was one “Kadal” review, where there was just an analysis of the film. No angst there.

    Then there was this rant here. Not so much angst as a vent — a bad decision in hindsight, I agree.

    What’s the third thing you refer to? If you’re talking about the weekly column (about tweets), that has nothing to do with “Kadal” specifically, but about how all filmmakers should learn to live with this kind of criticism, however “unfair” they may deem it. This happened to GVM with NEPV, to MR with Kadal, and to many others. Where is ” *my* angst at his critics ” there?


  69. “Kadull: Yup, that’s exactly how I function. And my positive reviews of “Saawariya” and “Not a Love Story” and “Aayirathil Oruvan” and “Neethane En Ponvasantham” and “Jhoom Barabar Jhoom” were because of my collaborations with those filmmakers.”

    This frustrated rant is from Coastal Analysis. Look at the angst about the accusation(which I agree was bizarre. Of all things one can accuse you of, selling reviews for money is the least plausible.)
    (And you have already had the way logic has gone for a toss i- n your frazzled state of mind while typing this reaction – pointed out to you)


  70. “Both rameshram (’nuff said) and hawkeye (whose attention is really beginning to border on the obsessive; he can’t seem to be able to breathe without invoking my name) ”

    Rameshram , yes, every other tweet(or more) is about you.
    Hawkeye? Really do you believe that “he can’t seem to breathe..etc”?

    Why such angst?


  71. And don’t start again on behaviour etc. If we end up discussing you, and you engage in it, it is only natural I follow up(when I have the time and inclination). Really, how hard is that to understand?
    Don’t get me wrong – I don’t hate you nor obsessed with you but sometimes your sensitivity sets you up badly for ridicule. Not that that’s bad/wrong/unprofitable. idhuvum kadandhu pOgum.

    In the larger scheme of things, we are all dead one day, anyway.

    epporuL yAr yAr vAi (eppadi eppadi) kEtkinum….


  72. raj: But that’s only in the comments, no? When you say “follow up,” are you talking about the comments section?

    I was curious about where you got the idea that… “Kadal Review, follow up, follow up to follow up…”

    I just wanted to make it clear that the only post I ranted in was this one. Feel free to take shots at me (and not that you need my permission anyway), but I just want you to be clear what those shots are for. This is not the first time we’ve come to e-blows and it won’t be the last either :-)


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