Movie critics don’t matter: Sudhish Kamath3 min read
Sudhish Kamath has been a film critic at The Hindu for the past 13 years and yet believes that a critic should not be given importance. Also an independent film maker and producer, his film ‘Good Night Good Morning’ has been featured at the South Asian International Film Festival and the Noordelijk Film Festival, Netherlands.
An alumnus of Manipal Institute of Communication (MIC), Kamath has hosted the talk show ‘Hands Up’ on Tamil television channel NDTV Hindu. He was in Manipal for Cinephilia 2012, a film festival organised by MIC, where he spoke to TMJ about different facets of film critiquing. Excerpts:
What according to you is the foundation for film criticism?
The foundation is exposure to cinema as wide as possible. Exposure to all kinds of cinema is absolutely necessary. You can’t just watch one kind of cinema to be a critic. Even if you want to review one kind of cinema you need to understand world cinema.
How important is a film critic’s role in today’s cinema?
Critics shouldn’t be given any importance as such. You should just read them and forget them. That is my take on it. A critic should be taken as a friend you trust, one who tells you whether to watch a movie or not. You shouldn’t take them seriously.
Is it passion for cinema which causes one to be a film critic or is it an art which ought to be taught?
I think a basic film study is absolutely required, but it can only supplement a natural desire to learn. You have to be in love with films. Nobody can teach you how to fall in love with cinema. Once you love cinema somebody can teach you how to maintain that relationship, teach you how to read, treat and understand better, but inherently you have to have affection for cinema.
In your 13 years, how much would you say has film criticism evolved?
Today film criticism has become all about ratings. Ratings have become a much more important part of film criticism because people do not have the time to read reviews. Therefore, they turn to the ratings. In a way the positive form of ratings is that we are no more dependent on only one review. You are able to form your own opinion by a bunch of ratings. The flipside being of course nobody reads reviews.
How can one reduce the readers’ dependency on ratings?
The Hindu has a policy that they do not want ratings. They have something known as the bottom line. Now looking at the other side of the fence, when I want to sell my DVDs, I want reviews. For putting reviews, I want ratings. So I am benefitted by ratings because I have got these stars, and it’s only because of these stars that I am able to sell my DVD. So therefore we can call ratings as an idea of a necessary evil.
A critic can actually see a movie for what it really is. In the same vein, can one say that good film critics can be good directors?
No, you can’t. While making a film you have lots of other things to worry about. So the critical elements are the last things at the back of your mind. But at some level you do want to make sure that you get good reviews, but there is no way you know how someone is going to react to the film.
Sub-edited by Natasha Mendon