Curious to know if top Tamil actor Vishal shops online? And if he does, how does he decide which new mobile phone, for instance, to buy? Does he scroll down to check the comments posted by those who have bought and used a handset before zeroing in on a particular brand and model? I hope he does, because in a market economy like today, that is the way to shop.
If that is the case, what is the logic in wanting to ensure no reviews are published before Monday, in order to ensure a three-day free run to every movie?
Vishal's logic is that negative reviews are hurting filmmakers and producers. In effect, he wants reviewers to give "some breathing space'' and hold their thoughts till 12 shows are screened in theatres on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It's as if Vishal's request is suffixed with an "Or else''.
"We need to regulate certain things. Regarding these reviews, the body will decide what to do,'' he says.
Vishal is the newly-elected president of the Producers Council and also secretary of the Nadigar Sangam (Artistes Association). Occupying the twin posts makes the actor-producer one of the most powerful men in Kollywood. Vishal clarifies that he is not talking about mainstream media. His ire is directed at small websites who according to him, "put a movie poster and a blue screen in the background and put out their views even before the first day, first show is over.''
But is policing these "small websites'' even possible? Forget websites, in the age of Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram, just about anyone who catches a movie is a critic who can articulate his or her opinion in an audio-visual manner. Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp groups are other forms of media available to these viewer-critics to spread the word. Who all will Vishal "regulate?"
Forget websites, in the age of Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram, just about anyone who catches a movie is a critic who can articulate his or her opinion in an audio-visual manner.
The Producers Council is no Superman. However, many bigwigs in the Tamil film industry support Vishal's idea. They include the likes of Baahubali's 'Kattappa' Sathyaraj and 'Kabali' producer S Thanu. And they do not necessarily make a distinction between mainstream media and social media platforms. Actor-Director-Choreographer Raghava Lawrence for instance, wants Vishal to issue an order preventing the media from reviewing the movie on the day of its release. Is Lawrence in his make-believe filmy world to think Vishal can indeed do so?
What the votaries of this ban want is for the viewer to believe only the rose-tinted impression about the product that the film's cast and crew sell during promotions through different forms of media. In many cases, Vishal would himself agree, much of it is over-the-top. Stories of an affair during the making of the movie or a rift over a stolen script are made up just to sell a sub-standard film. Doesn't it amount to cheating the public and worse, trying to ensure that nothing about the mediocrity gets out in the public domain for three days?
In fact, what the reviews do is to help the viewer make an informed choice on whether he should watch the film or not. At a time, when multiplex tickets are a minimum of ₹150, it helps a family decide on whether to spend over ₹1,000 on a movie outing or save the money. And most people tend to look at more than a couple of reviews before deciding to watch a movie, unless of course it stars their favorite actor whose film they just would not miss.
Vishal's mistake is to make it seem that the movies are only about the industry. No, the movies are as much about the viewers as they are that of the filmmakers. In fact, reviews and word-of-mouth publicity help deliver sleeper hits. This year's National award winner for best Telugu film 'Pelli Choopulu' is a case in point.
Where Vishal does have a point is about internal sabotage. Admittedly, rivals within his own film industry try to plant reviews that can hurt a movie through fake social media accounts. Vishal should try and get his own brethren to agree to not engage in dirty tricks. And this is something that happens in all industries, given the bad blood between fan clubs of top stars.
If Vishal and Sathyaraj want some reviewers to hibernate for three days, Rajinikanth wants reviews not to hurt. While he has a point in arguing against reviews that insult, the superstar is making the mistake of assuming that a critic's responsibility is towards the filmmaker. No, as someone who knows more about movie making than the average film goer, a critics's job is to tell the viewer what to expect.
Reviews, ideally, should be the least of Kollywood's worries. It should focus on getting its financing right and working on better stories to tell.
Frankly, Kollywood is barking up the wrong tree. Its losses in recent times are more to do with the unrealistic remuneration that a top star takes home, real estate barons-turned-producers who do not understand the trade and have entered the business to park their money and enjoy the glamour and filmmakers creating unnecessary hype to sell the product at an unrealistic price. Add to that is the problem of piracy that kills even a good movie's prospects.
Reviews, ideally, should be the least of Kollywood's worries. It should focus on getting its financing right and working on better stories to tell. The reviews will then automatically work in their favour.