A Critique of the Critic

“But are we, my sweet summer child, getting anywhere with this hunt for hidden meaning, in places where it is all but apparent?”

– Arvind Rameshwar

Salt shakers, baseball caps and Pearl T-shirts. Found some commonality? Welcome aboard, the new age symbol hunter – we’ve missed you.

It is widely touted that we are in the age of a cinematic revolution of sorts – the ‘masala’ film of yore has given way to the ‘niche’ film – the kind you wouldn’t feel uneasy watching with that pseudo-elitist friend of yours. It’s the age where you and I stretch ourselves at the breakfast table, and speak fondly of Scorcese and Fincher, and Fellini and Kubrick. The ‘canted frame’ is our pet topic, and the very mention of layered dramas is enough to get us on our feet. We love dismissing SRK’s – what was that again? – Ra-One, yes, as ‘but a hullabaloo in the movie hall’, and giggle mildly at our back-handed references. The oranges in ‘The Godfather’, the X-symbols in ‘The Departed’ – we discuss them over and over, just to bask in the warm sunshine of artistic intelligence.

But are we, my sweet summer child, getting anywhere with this hunt for hidden meaning, in places where it is all but apparent?

Nope, not at all. In fact, we are possibly losing sight of the very purpose a film is meant to serve – a medium of entertainment, and probably, of communication.

So here we are, then – at the crossroads of deciding who we’d rather be – the stiff-upper lipped critic oozing snobbery, or the regular movie watcher, fiction reader or art appreciator, who likes his films and literature only one way – authentic and simple.

We’ve read a host of polished articles on how a film should have been, by people of all kinds. We’ve seen movies steam-rollered, thrashed and ripped apart by novice armchair critics. But in the midst of this rush to be heard as different, or be quoted as an ‘astute intellectual observer’, we are breeding a confused bunch of critics – critics who force themselves to appreciate art of a certain kind; critics who chew through Kafka and spit out Khaled Hosseini. It’s almost like slow death, where the urge to appear deeply philosophical and elitist in one’s actions supersedes the need to welcome heterogeneous art – films or otherwise.

We’re digressing a bit, but I believe it is essential. I, for one, strongly feel the need for quick introspection – a critique of the critic, if I may, so that you and I can do some course correction. Layered cinema is pretty, I agree, and there’s absolutely no end to the (actually unintended) Easter eggs and innuendos we can look for, in film or in the books we read. Marquez writes fluid, Murakami makes your head spin, but Wodehouse lets you laugh, and genuinely at that. Citizen Kane is a study in itself, you’re right, but did you enjoy the film? Did you let yourself loose of the shackles that bound you to analyze the movie and dissect its parts? Or did ‘812’  leave you with a sense of satisfaction that you would have relished at the end of say, ‘Two States’?

You can read your Dostoyevsky all right, but expecting ones of the same mould to show up whenever you pick up a book seems unreasonable. This is food for thought – surely more than ‘Pulp Fiction’ was. So now it trickles down to a question of whether we can reconcile with being the forced classy critic, or just be the genuinely interested movie watcher, or novel lover – who loves Rabindra Sangeet, but wouldn’t mind Chetan Bhagat either.

My hands are washed and dried. But your pani puri seems to be cut with a knife and fork. That’s not the way it must be enjoyed, Sir.

– Arvind Rameshwar

Catch the other side of the story on
An Artistic touch to Raw Entertainment

Cover designed by: Anshuman Das


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