The Big Deal About Writing Film Reviews
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19 Oct,2012 12:28 IST

The Big Deal About Writing Film Reviews

Every film industry ultimately mirrors the society that it is drawn from, says Anna M.M. Vetticad, author of 'The Adventures Of An Intrepid Film Critic'
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Tell us a bit about yourself? And why the love for films?
I would have to say I got my love for films and books from my parents. I find it quite interesting that though they were both born in very small places in the Kerala countryside in the 1930s, by the time they left the state for higher studies in their teens, Dad had a personal library filled with old English literary classics and Mum was a fan of Hindi films and Hollywood films. I am not sure how that came about, but it did. And then, I had the good fortune of having a wonderful school teacher called Deepa Sarobar who introduced me to the joys of not just reading books, but also studying them. After reading William Wordsworth's Daffodils as a kid under Mrs. Sarobar's guidance, and then as a teenager, Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice and Shakespeare's The Merchant Of Venice again with Ma'am, I could never look at the written word with the same eyes. She also made us watch a film version of Pride And Prejudice to help us understand the difference between the book-reading and film-viewing experience. Not every teacher is wonderful, not all of them join the profession out of passion for teaching and children. But it takes just one great teacher supplementing the efforts of two great parents to make a difference to a kid's life. Mrs. Sarobar was that teacher for me.
 
When did you first get the idea of writing this book? How did you find a publisher for it?
It's tough to explain precisely when I zeroed in on the idea for this book. It's certainly hard to set out a precise timeline, but I'll try. I remember that some colleagues had been advising me for years to start blogging, but somehow the blogosphere felt like an alien space to me till I watched the film Julie And Julia starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams and I thought, maybe it's worth a shot after all. I knew though that if I started a blog it would have to be something unusual, where I am not just posting material on a regular basis, but I'm taking readers on a journey with me, getting them involved, sort of like travelling companions, with a common thread running through all my posts like Julie Powell's blog in the film. I'm not sure I was conscious of these thoughts, but now when I look back I realise that at a sub-conscious level my mind started ticking when I watched that film.
 
Then in early 2011 I quit my job at Headlines Today because I needed to deal with certain matters on the home front and I also wanted to write for the print news media, teach, write books and do all sorts of things that a television job leaves you with no time for. That's when it occurred to me that I should start a blog in which I promise readers that I would not skip a single Hindi film released in the entire National Capital Region. I knew I wanted to derive a book from the blog, but I was not sure what form or shape the book would take.
 
The Adventures Of An Intrepid Film Critic 
By  Anna M.M. Vetticad
Om Books International
Pages: 256
Price: Rs 295
The blog was also a big experiment in the new media for me because I wanted to answer this simple question for myself: Would people read my reviews if I was not the official reviewer for a mainstream media publication? Can a person be considered a critic if he or she does not represent an organisation? What makes you eligible for the tag of 'film critic': an official designation or recognition and respect from readers?
 
As the months rolled by, through the experience of reviewing all those films and tracking down the people who've made even the smallest, least known films among them, I found myself making all sorts of discoveries about the Hindi film industry that I had never thought I could make after nearly two decades as a journalist. The process of writing the blog had most unexpectedly ended up giving me a 360 degree view of contemporary Bollywood. I was in discussions with various publishers at the time but zeroed in on Om because there was a meeting of minds there. But even though we had an idea of what the book would be when I finally signed a contract with them, the final format came to me only after I finished my research and began writing the book. In many ways, once the research was done, the book wrote itself.
 
Interesting conversation with Eddie and Rohit Shetty... You will probably ruffle a few feathers. What are the kind of reactions you have received so far from within the film fraternity -- outside of those who read the book before it got published?
The feedback from film industry members who have read it so far has been extremely positive. I think people were expecting the book to be a compilation of my blog reviews so they are also pleasantly surprised at the concept of the book. It's possible that I will ruffle a few feathers in the industry but no one so far has got aggressive with me or picked a quarrel with me, so I will cross that bridge when I come to it.
 
Why the foreword from Ranbir Kapoor? 
Ranbir is the first and only person I thought of when I figured that I want a Foreword for my book. He stands for everything that my book stands for in my eyes — with all the flaws that I may point out in the film industry, at the end of the day The Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic is a celebration of a changing Bollywood, a celebration of small films and a tribute to people who are making their own road in the industry. People like Vidya Balan, Onir and Rajeev Khandelwal are doing that in ways that are very different from each other. So is Ranbir. As he himself says in his foreword, he comes from a position of privilege. What he doesn't say is that unlike so many others who also come from positions of privilege, he has been a risk taker right from the start. He could have acted in more formulaic films and played it safe with more obviously massy films like Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. But from his very first film he showed us that he was different. If Ranbir had not acted in Rockstar, for instance, we'd have considered it a small, offbeat film. I think that's one of the loveliest things about Bollywood right now … that what was once offbeat is now mainstream. I mean, if Aamir Khan had not produced Delhi Belly and promoted it the way he did, if he and UTV had not made 'Bhaag DK Bose' the film's marketing USP, Delhi Belly might have been considered a small, offbeat film. People like Aamir, Ranbir, Vidya, Priyanka (Chopra) are at the forefront of this change in the industry. Besides, when you read the foreword and the book, you will realise that Ranbir has several other connections to the many subjects discussed in it, so it had to be him.
 

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