Eighteen years, and counting…

Posted on January 30, 2021


Read the full article on Film Companion, here: http://www.filmcompanion.in/southern-lights-baradwaj-rangan-on-fifteen-years-as-critic/

In which I look back at the time I started out as a film critic, what it’s like now, and a few things in between.

On January 30, 2003, my first review was published – that makes it 15 years this week. The film was Dum, made when Vivek Oberoi was a thing, when Yana Gupta was a thing. (Remember Babuji zara dheere chalo?) Unlike today, when online is the place to be in order to get noticed, it wasn’t such a sure thing then. I put my articles and reviews on my blog, mostly as a sort of portfolio, and things just happened. Through no planning of mine, I became one of the first “internet generation” critics, along with writers like Raja Sen and Jai Arjun Singh. The critics before us had established themselves through the print medium. They were the big names in the newspapers and magazines. We were among the first who developed a following largely through the online community.

This isn’t a nostalgia piece – though I’d say I’m entitled to one. It’s just that I got thinking about how different the scene is today. My first review was published in The Economic Times – Madras Plus supplement. (The other writer on the cinema beat was Samanth Subramanian, who, eventually, ditched plans of being a film critic and went on to greater international glories .) But it was at The New Sunday Express that I began to be widely read. I’d watch a film on Friday, jot down thoughts that evening, write the review all of Saturday, and send it in by Saturday evening, so it could appear on the Sunday paper.

My job description is the same today (except that I review many more non-Tamil, non-Hindi films), but the way I do it couldn’t be more different. I watch a movie, jot down thoughts soon after, write the review and send it in, all in a matter of hours. We’ve heard the saying, “Journalism is literature in a hurry.” Today, it’s more than that. It’s literature with a ticking clock and a gun to the head. I feel lucky I was able to make a mark in slower times. I don’t know what I’d do if I were starting out today, with the constant awareness of eyeballs and clicks, the constant pressure to be the first one out with the review.

Continued at the link above.

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