Film journalism has become journalism of promoting stars than that of talking about films
Well, this question on the content of film journalism is irrelevant to even consider in the first place. Right? Because what’s more problematic and disappointing is the Indian journalism itself. For the last few years, the kind of journalism that is in practice, especially considering the political atmosphere of the country is extremely worrying. Where earlier, it was just the ownership that was gatekeeping the content, now the nexus of investors, media conglomerates, and politicians have started affecting the entire news production process. Well, we have extensively written on the problems with the way journalism has been practiced, it was a common belief that entertainment journalism — film journalism so to say — doesn’t get affected by ownership patterns but now, this also seems to worry us.
Before even talking about the problems, the very purpose of film journalism is to describe the plot, characters, director, etc. to help determine whether or not a film should be seen. The deeper idea of film criticism is basically to study, interpret, and evaluate a film and talk about the longer consequence of the film. Basically, going beyond what is shown and the denotation of the content, signs, and symbols of a film that can consciously or subconsciously affect viewers.
The practice of film journalism is not something new, though, the pattern has been significantly changed. Earlier, when a film was released, there used to be a press conference and a press screening for all the film journalists who will further review and put it on their platform which is still the case.
First things first, the real motive of a press conference is to ask relevant questions about the film from the makers. Most often, the case is that the filmmakers (director) themselves are not addressing the conferences and the actors are. The process of filmmaking starts with a vision of the writer and director of the film. Actors add their magic on screen. Hence, the visionary of the film generally is not there to talk about the film. Further, when it comes to press screening and critics reviewing the film, the most common sentiment behind it is to promote the film. What goes to the audience is a review that is mitigated by the idea of promoting the film and hence no big, critical statements are made about the film. Well, some reviewers give credible reviews, yet a lot of them just brag about the film and leave it at that.
Basundhara, the founder of Gangs of Cinemapur, one of the pages that talks deeply about the content of films tells us that “it is extensively dependent on the paid promotions which malice the content. Where reviews can be seen as slightly bragging about the film, the individual interviews with actors and other performers, be or not be near the release has something to do with the promotion and presence of stars by their respective PRs.”
Now, considering the much-praised release of August, Gunjan Saxena, the Kargil Girl, almost every film critic, from Stutee from The Quint to Suchitra from Film Companion reviewed the film and wholeheartedly praised it. It was later only when the film was found to be factually incorrect, as it was widely brought into notice by editor in chief of The Print, Shekhar Gupta who is a political journalist. Later, The Quint did a written story interviewing Gunjan Saxena herself to speak about the film and her experience. Now, the question is – what are film journalists and critics doing? Is checking the factual errors and problems in the representation, not a part of film reading and reviewing? Why is a political journalist the editor in chief of a completely political news media who hardly talks anything about entertainment and films is supposed to come and do that? Why didn’t any film critic came and talked about it in the first place?
Well, Gunjan Saxena is not the only film which gained a lot of praise earlier and later only, gained criticism.
Coming to the activity of interviewing performers in a film and talking about their journey, it is certainly a healthy practice until its common sentiment is something else than promoting the artist/ performer or just bringing eyeballs to the channel/organization and ultimately getting it sponsored by some XYZ investors. In an interview of Tapsee Pannu with Scoopwhoop Unfiltered, Tapsee jokingly went on saying “ye question mere PR waalo ne toh nhi dia hoga puchne ko?” which shows that the PR associations have got something to do with these interviews.
Now, there is a lot to talk about and point out, but ultimately it comes to what is film journalism? Do the film journalists understand their responsibility as JOURNALISTS and think of what films can portray for society. The Indian audience is somewhere consciously and subconsciously affected by what a film shows them. If a film propagating the wrong idea gets good reviews, a) it becomes disappointing for people who are representing the right content and b) end up encouraging wrong representation by failing to give a reality check. Hence, the reviewers’ not thinking about the wider consequence of a film is a question that is absolutely worrying.
The Quint’s About Gunjan Saxena
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