Thursday, June 04, 2009

Touchy Touchy

When it comes to Tamil cinema, very few things surprise me any more. But one news item that made my jaw literally drop was this one about director Shakti Chidambaram suing Suhasini. Its not like Tamil cinema hasn't been involved in legal wranglings before. Allegations of vulgarity, plagiarism and hurt sentiments have all sent our movie folks to the court. But its the reason behind the case that makes this one stand out. Shakti is suing Suhasini because she gave his movie a bad review!

This is not the first time we are hearing about people associated with a movie getting upset over criticism of their movie. Bala, for instance, refused to meet Bharadwaj Rangan because another reviewer at his newspaper didn't rate Naan KadavuL very highly. It wasn't too long ago that Amitabh Bachan had some very harsh words for Khalid Mohammad after the critic lambasted Bhoothnath. And in Hollywood, director Vincent Gallo engaged in a long war of words with Roger Ebert after the latter's review of The Brown Bunny. But those were all just person-to-person fights. This is probably the first time in the world that a director is resorting to legal means to strike back at a reviewer.

Its not difficult to understand why directors are so upset when their movies get a bad rap. Their movie is their baby, their creation, the fruit of their labor. They work on it for months - sometimes years - and its natural that they get attached to it. So they see an attack on the movie as a personal attack and get upset.

But directors also need to understand that they are producing a commodity. They are creating something for public consumption and need to be ready to take what comes with that. It might be a work of art for them but in the end, its just another product. And just as everyone who uses a product feels differently about it, everyone who watches the movie is likely to have a different opinion about it. And the directors have to be mature enough to accept the good and the bad.

As for Suhasini, she was just doing her job. A viewer is going to spend time and money at a movie and deserves to know beforehand if it is going to be worth it. Thats why he turns to reviewers and its upto the reviewers to give their honest opinion about the movie. That's what Suhasini did in this case. There is no right or wrong. As long as she was honest about her thoughts on the movie, she did her job. That's what she gets paid for and that's what people trust her for. Shakti just has to understand that. And suing her for that is just plain ridiculous.

So we can only hope that Shakti's case is thrown out for the frivolous case it is. Then again, if he wins the case, maybe we can start suing him for the films he makes :)

20 Comments:

At 11:12 PM, Blogger skanda said...

I think sakthi's move is to get more publicity for the movie,in some ways he has suceeded, and made people sit up and take notice of this issue. whether or not, it goes to court is immaterial, his job is done. It's the same useless tactic that Bollywood users before a film hits the theaters, they create some drama or controversy, to make people curious and watch thier movies.

 
At 4:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

whats the poster above said :)

 
At 10:16 AM, Blogger Raj said...

Completely agree with you Balaji...However, another issue at hand is baseless reviews. A lot of times, I read reviews that are just plain ridiculous. Some resulting from personal preference, others from sheer bias. I trust reviews, but of course it doesn't hurt to at least try to be unbiased, fair, and overall honest like you said.
-Raj

 
At 10:23 AM, Blogger Ven Sharma said...

Have not watched the movie Rajathi Raja but can sympathise with the critic. In this case Suhasini.

Couldnt sit through any of his previous flicks like Maha Nadigan, Englishkaran etc.

Chidambaram is very good at wasting talented actors like Vadivel and Satyaraj.

 
At 2:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What the director talked about Maniratnam is very funny.. LOL. :)

Yes, it is afterall one's opinion.. reviewer or otherwise. Take it or leave it.

 
At 4:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Frankly, when a person listens to someone else's opinion, an idea is already created. How many films that got watchable reviews by BB, was given a junk verdict by other moviegoers. Each ones taste is different, and to generalize depending purely on one's own preference, will surely have negative impacts.

Legal notices...well, there are some reviewers that need to learn professionalism. Otherwise, suing, especially for Tamil films, doesn't seem practical.

On the other hand, agree with Shakthi Chidambaram. If Suhasini had referred to the film as a copy of many put together, then Maniratnam would be the smartest copier of all?:-) I have read that a number of his films have been highly influenced, by content or scenes, from other sources.

-kajan

 
At 8:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Balaji,
I dont think he will Walk the talk.
All he needed was some cheap publicity and he got it.

If indeed he goes to the court,then I think we too can sue him for casting Lawrence as the hero :-)

PS:Completely offtopic.Watched Vijayakanth starrer Sathriyan in K TV.Its the debut movie of K.Subaash and I was wondering whatever happened to him.Why dont you post an analysis of one hit wonder' like him?

-Jey

 
At 1:25 AM, Anonymous vijay said...

kajan, your points are absurd. Sakthi makes unadulterated crap and as a TV reviewer Suhasini did her job. what is "unprofessional" about it ? Did she personally attack Sakthi? No. She attacked the film, and that was her personal opinion.

Tamil cinema will never improve as long as it cannot stand any criticism and enjoys only mutual back-scratching.
Sakthi deserves that and much more. I hope somebody sues his ass for making such films in the first place

 
At 6:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kajan,

There is no way to know she's bias towards Mani's movies coz she hasn't reviewed any so far.So no way to know if she was satisfied or not with Mani's movies.

 
At 9:00 AM, Anonymous kabaali said...

In the U.S, there are food disparagement laws enacted by a handful of states. Given how integral movies are to the tamil psyche, maybe we will see movie disparagement laws (movies being food for thought) in tamilnadu :-)
This reminds me of the case filed by texas cattlemen against Oprah Winfrey for expressing her fear of eating burgers on her show(during a discussion on mad cow disease) and the cattle futures market crashed the very next day. She went on to win the case and in oprahesque fashion declared "free speech rocks !" Of course, Suhasini is no Oprah and the tamil movie industry ain't the texas cattlemen (though a case can be made that its akin to an aattu mandhai for the most part). Suhasini (whether you agree with her reviews or not) did not defame the director, but his product and I think there is enough protection in the Indian Constitution for free speech and expression (not incitement) that any case against negative reviews of artistic work will be laughed out of court. Or else, heaven help us ..

 
At 9:35 AM, Blogger Balaji said...

skanda/anon, the more i think about the ridiculousness of the whole thing, the more I'm leaning towards ur theory :)

raj, actually I'd say the all reviews(including mine) exhibit personal preference and bias. thats cos they r personal opinions. as long as the reviewer is honest, that's all that matters :)

ven sharma, i just saw it yesterday and i sympathise with everyone who sees it! the flicks u mentioned would be masterpieces compared to this :)

anon, yep, those comments show us that he HAS taken it personally :)

kajan, yes each one's tastes are different. that's why reviews are unique. but reviewers gets readers cos their opinions are honest and not because all the readers agree with them. and the makers of a product need to realize that they are opinions and not personal attacks.

as for the copy part, I haven't seen the program but I think suhasini mentioned that the film looks like the films of the 80s to say that it is old-fashioned and not that it is a copy of any films per se :)

jey, yep, sure looks like that. it definitely got me talking about it :)

hmmm K.Subaash. he directed a few other action movies too right? I remember the name and think I liked many of his movies :)

vijay, well put. the mutual backscratching has to stop if people have to understand their mistakes and improve the next time around :)

anon, that would be a tough one. many like mani's movies but if she says its good, itll immediately be branded as a biased review. she'll probably not review his movies :)

kabaali, very well put. clever and funny! but u're right. no court's gonna entertain cases on reviews of artistic work. as other commentors said, this is beginning to look a lot like shakti's attempt at free publicity. i guess bad publicity is better than no publicity at all is his thinking. and he may well be right! :)

 
At 9:44 AM, Blogger Kulaa Raj said...

I haven't personally seen the film yet but its ridiculous to sue someone for expressing their opinion. To be completely honest however, how many Tamil movie these days doesn't follow the "20 year old formula"? Someone had to open the eyes of the directors who repeatedly did the same material over and over and Suhasini's thrown into the spotlight for doing so for the first time. Hope she wins the case.

 
At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

BB,
Was ref. to Shakthi C.'s commment when I referred to the copy statement. Quoting as having been said by Suhasini. Unprofessional is in our reviewers trashing films, in the general sense. I do believe that preferences are wide and there is an audience for masala films, such as Vijay's. Its like telling someone a software product is no good. I don't think that Suhasini does, but most reviews do affect box-office. Regarding Mani, that is the general opinion. I don't recall speaking about Suhasini's stand on them.

Now, coming to the point, I have no objections to reviews. Of course, we all depend on them. But even citing BB's favorable reviews, there are tons of films that have been washed out by reviewers, which could have done well.

-kajan

 
At 4:29 PM, Anonymous kabaali said...

kajan,

What is wrong about reviewing, criticizing or even trashing a software product? Maybe its bug-infested, maybe it produces a blue screen once every two weeks, or maybe its functionally anaemic. Even the mighty Microsoft has its army of detractors. A reviewer interested in building credibility will dissect/deconstruct the product in question and provide the rationale for recommending or rejecting it. This is true of any product including a piece of soap. If the soap in question produces a lot of lather, but does not clean, wouldn't you be terribly pissed for paying a price? However, you or Shakti or the hordes of Shakti fans are all well within your right to critique the critic or even trash the critic's rationale for whatever it is worth. Shakti or his fans could start a whole new program on tv or a blog. That includes counter-programming "Haasini Pesum Padam" (hey, i even have a suggestion: "Aval Appadithaan" :-)). But, when SC instead resorts to slapping a lawsuit to muzzle opinion, he needs to be called for "committing a foul".

 
At 1:30 AM, Blogger narayanan said...

Jey,
I think K.Subash also made Pavithra, so Sathriyan isnt his only movie.

 
At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL,
It's not the point of suing(is that even an option?), but rubbishing anything for the sake of it, which isn't something Suhasini is not known for. Personally, I would take anything Suhasini says with a pinch of salt. Popular quotes being "I became a director because one needn't use brains to be an actress", "I am proud to be Tamil because of Ilayaraja". It's not a question of SC. BTW, is there something wrong with being an SC fan? I am sure many here would look down at Vijay fans or Rajni fans. But they sure have a bigger market, then so called 'class' artists. Does that make the rest of the peoples taste cheap? I have been wondering that, ever since I have been reading so much negative comments. I admit that I rubbish Vijay, but then, I hate the guy's films and his future intentions. But in general, why do we have a low opinion of the so called 'mass' films? A topic for BB:-)

I have gone back and seen some 80s hits. Personally, even the films that are being called classics today, might not have reached that stand with the kind of reviewers we have today, and the number of reviewers. I strongly feel some good films of the recent past, would have done well, had the reviews on television media been more favorable. But unfortunately, it seems both Telugu and Tamil industries have too much politics involved in film-making.

As far as microsoft is concerned, it will be a while, before anyone can resort to think of alternatives, so regardless, it is still somewhat, a monopoly. Not that that is an area of expertise for me. I will stick out of it.


-kajan

 
At 10:20 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

kulaaraj, the problems is that the directors know that they r following a 20-yr-old formula. they just do it cos they think it works :)

kajan, i dont think trashing a film makes a reviewer unprofessional. if he/she hated the film, that's what they should do. yes, there's an audience for vijay's films and if one of that audience reviews a vijay film, it would be a favorable one. that doesn't make him unprofessional either. since its a personal opinion, there's no right or wrong :)

and I don't think people have a low opinion of mass films. we just have a low opinion of badly-made mass films :)

 
At 3:30 AM, Anonymous kabaali said...

kajan,

If you think the shriyas, the trishas, the nayantaras and the namithas (insert your fav actress as well) are racking their brains over the roles they play, that is bordering on the delusional. So, I've no problem with Suhasini's statement about acting. Except that she may have overstated what it takes to *direct* tamil movies :-) But, I am not here to defend everything (or anything) Suhasini says. Feel free to dislike her. Regarding Rajini or Vijay, there is no simple answer to the mass hysteria that is whipped by a Rajini (or to a lesser extent Vijay) movie. Incidentally, I think the Rajini of yore was a fine actor (moondru mudichu, avargal, mullum malarum etc). IMO, size of the market or rasigar mandrams are not a yardstick of how fine an actor is, but a leading indicator of how tamil moviedom (with a few exceptions) is mired in a strange mix of politics, punch dialogues, poster paalabishekams and the like (I am leaving out ribald humor, gratuitous violence, item numbers and more). Does that make the tastes of the masses cheap? I believe (and you might agree) taste, unlike beauty, lies in the *tongue* of the beholder. One man's food is another man's poison. What do you think an adivaasi’s thoughts are about civilization and city dwelling (not to mention watching tamil movies :-)) ? Maybe, therein lies the clue to your question about tastes and whether a particular taste is cheap or sublime.

 
At 6:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was watching Suhashini's review on Angels and Demons. She basically yaps without content. She misunderstood the whole point of the clues in the movie and made trash comments out of it. According to her "why should the villain plant clues? so that langdon can save the cardinals?"

She's kinda frank and dumb at the same time. If you need an intelligent review, then pls avoid her. Also, she keeps reiterating the points and worst still, reveals the entire plot. On the other hand, it's fun to watch her kicking the asses of certain directors.

 
At 2:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reviewers do their bit for that bit of fame too, undeniably. The question here must be : who are the reviewers' audience?

If the answer is everyone who watches the review, then one has to concede that the reviewer must accept both brickbats and bouquets. But it has never been clear what real influence this has on movie goers deciding to watch the movie (or not).

However, at either end of the stick is the penultimate measure: a frank, objective and unbiased piece. And it's journalistic karma that there is no such thing as bad publicity ... publicity works either way.

And its the journalist or reviewer who weaves the wand ...

 

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