A film critic’s open letter to director Ram

Posted on March 29, 2018

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Read the full article on Film Companion, here: http://www.filmcompanion.in/southern-lights-a-film-critics-open-letter-to-director-ram-baradwaj-rangan/

In which I try to explain why “film appreciation” for Tamil cinema isn’t easy in today’s climate.

In an interview with Cinema Express, director Ram expressed this opinion about critics. While admitting that no art form can grow without criticism/reviews, he said, “The biggest problem with Tamil cinema is that there are no good critics. Writers double as critics. There are observers who comment on a film after watching it, saying whether they liked it or not. There is a lot of ‘popular’ criticism, which acts as a recommendation and says things like ‘the cinematography was beautiful’ or ‘the editing was pacy’. These come with marks or stars. Everyone has their own agenda or political understanding about art. So through the review, the reviewer also reveals who he/she is. Then there are bloggers. There are film buffs. I know when someone is looking at a film as just a story, or writing a review just to create a controversy.”

“But film appreciation is beyond all this. It’s about approaching film as art, as aesthetics. This kind of film appreciation is very rare in Tamil cinema. And it’s practically non-existent in English.” He spoke about what people told him at the Rotterdam film festival, that “the people writing about Tamil cinema in English are very narrow minded. Are there no neutral, democratic critics who can introduce Tamil cinema to the world?’ So if Tamil cinema is like this, it’s because the reviewing culture here is so bad.” I have paraphrased what Ram said, but this is the gist.

I mostly agree with him. Most people here exist somewhere between “reviewer” and “critic.” The kind of art appreciation that Ram (who I think is a very important filmmaker, even if I have my reservations about his films) talks about can happen in two ways – before the film’s release, or after. I want to tell Ram why neither way is feasible in the current scenario.

Continued at the link above.

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