Of all the blowhards that populate tinseltown, I always enjoy reading what Ram Gopal Verma has to say. When Amitabh Bachchan starts ventilating about the myriad ways he’s been done wrong, I think yawnsies. When Salman Khan starts rips the fragile filter off his mouth and gives you a guided tour of the Inner Mind of Khan, I roll my eyes. But when RGV starts ranting about how he feels persecuted and doles out his frank thoughts on the film industry at large, I find it highly entertaining.
For example, his latest movie, Agyaat, a movie I have neither seen nor wish to see, apparently came a cropper at every reviewer’s table, so he unleashed this fantastic screed:
Some Peppermint Tejpal wrote a review in Mumbai Mirror, that is if it can be called a review, posing as if he is the world expert on cinema. If the only qualification of a reviewer is to just have an opinion then I would really like to know the process of a paper choosing and employing a reviewer out of millions of opinion makers. If it’s not about his opinion and it’s about expertise then what is peppermint’s expertise. It would be nothing but him being in love with himself the way he can rip apart a film much more than even his actual hatred for the film…..Also I have no problem in getting one star from sweetie cutie Anupama who thinks “Eklavya” is a classic and the lesser said about the Buffalo Bumzai the better.
Heh. RGV in fury mode absolutely kills me. But somebody needs to tell poor RGV that he’ll never get any traction in this snark business unless he learns to lay off the vitriol. Angry snark is not snark, it’s just a pissed off guy employing sarcasm when what he really wants is to egg the other guy’s house.
Wait a minute – did I just review his rant against reviews?
Levity aside, I found the premise of his argument rather astonishing in a man of his background. Maybe it makes sense in the context of the people he calls out by name – I don’t know, I never read any of them – but a few points really made me think.
First off, do reviews really matter that much to the bottomline? Although I’ve often come across people who’ll murmur as an aside that the reviews have been scathing about such-and-such film, never have I found someone deterred from watching a movie they were genuinely interested in by negative reviews. And generally speaking, people seem to rely more on word-of-mouth than anything else. Added to this, certain movies, directors and actors are always going to be what they call “review-proof” – a term that RGV ought to be familiar with because he’s certainly worked hard to become one of those people.
Had RGV been a no-name director scrambling for funds who found his debut movie trashed beyond repair by a vengeful cabal of all-powerful critics, I might have understood it better. But while it can’t be pleasant to wake up one morning and find the newspapers full of terrible reviews of your work, as RGV points out himself, his bottomline is perfectly fine. Perhaps more people might have flocked to see Agyaat if it had cornered better notices but nothing anybody had to say ultimately mattered to its core audience of RGV- and horror-fans.
And yet, it’s always the review-proof directors who really get their knickers in a twist over the bad reviews. Look at Stephen Sommers, a man who routinely makes movies that cost tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars to produce and market because the studios know he’ll bring in that kind of revenue even in the middle of a recession and he might well be RGV’s twin:
On the most popular movies of the last decade, the reviews have gotten more vicious, more personal. These critics have become a dying breed, and part of it is how much more vicious and personal they’ve become. They attack the directors, personally.
So much for “Indian” reviewers then. The whole rotten tribe of them is evil! They live to persecute poor little directors who only wish to bring joy to the deprived masses.
When RGV, a man who famously began making movies because he couldn’t stop sampling the merchandise in his video lending library, writes:
“The purpose of a review could be to warn a viewer of how a film is and probably to prepare a mindset. But does anybody believe that this alone would be the intention of any of the reviewers.”
it really strikes me as odd that he doesn’t for one minute believe that perhaps the reason why reviewers review movies is for the same reason that he used to once watch movies in his store – because they like them.
“It’s not a critic’s job to reflect box office taste,” writes Roger Ebert in a post that reads as though it might have been written explicitly as a reply to RGV and his brethren. “The job is to describe my reaction to a film, to account for it, and evoke it for others. The job of the reader is not to find his opinion applauded or seconded, but to evaluate another opinion against his own.”
That said, since I don’t actually know any of the people RGV targets for his ire, I could well be mistaken. Perhaps the majority of movie-reviewers out there really hate the movies and want people to stop watching them and are cursing every day the cruelty of a fate that condemns them to watch cinema for a living. Perhaps their job truly is to “warn” others and “prepare” them for what lies in wait.
But for argument’s sake let’s say there are at least a couple of them out there who enjoy what they do. So why then do they write a “bad review”?
Maybe, just maybe, because the movie sucked. As simple as that.
And really, if RGV wants to see what truly excoriating reviews look like, he should call up Michael Bay. Here’s sample of the kind of things he had to hear about his latest moneyspinner: “Michael Bay has once again transformed garbage into something resembling a film, at least in the loosest sense: it can be run through a projector and used to sell millions of tickets.”
[PS: This whole brouhaha actually reminded me of that goodbye note Stu VanAirsdale penned for Defamer, in which he talked about the limitations of snark:
It also made me lazy. “If I talk to you,” John Cusack began an interview last May, “will you stop writing nasty shit about me?” I didn’t know what the fuck he was talking about, but I learned soon enough, rediscovering some tossed-off, machine-feeding item about his upcoming film 2012. Just stupid. And there were others like it — maybe even hundreds of them, too embarrassing to exhume now, but apparently not too awful to stop, you know, doing. They continued unabated, in fact, until a couple weeks ago, when one of the less egregious examples prompted a commenter to ask sincerely, “Do you like anything?”
It was a piece that resonated with me because I’d had a similar sort of epiphany myself not long before he wrote it. About a year or so into writing Hindi film music reviews for this blog, I arrived at a point where I began to actively dislike even the thought of writing them because they were fast making me hate everything my eye fell upon. I stand by every single one of them but at a certain point, when you’ve eagerly plugged in to the latest album only to find it as ridiculous as the last one, you start to wonder if your life is just going to be one long stretch of horrible. Which is why, to those who still ask, I no longer write music reviews. There’s plenty of snark-worthy stuff out there, it just wearies me to point it out when there’s so many other things I could snark about to better effect.]