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Social cinema: A review of film reviews

| SRIDHAR SATTIRAJU
Published : Jun 10, 2016, 12:18 am IST
Updated : Jun 10, 2016, 12:18 am IST

Tweets and posts are increasingly deciding the fate of a film on Fridays

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 goodness.jpeg

Tweets and posts are increasingly deciding the fate of a film on Fridays

A successful film can earn very high revenues. But what makes a film successful Is it the story The content The presentation Or the ‘entertainment value’ All these do matter but what sends a chill down the spines of film-makers is the speed of web reviews and tweets and Facebook comments. A proliferation of social media and film websites has spurred the demand for the fastest review of a movie.

Many years ago, before the Bird and the Zuckerberg, reviews weren’t published until the day after a Friday’s release which gave some leeway for producers to salvage the situation here and there. Now with a billion users on Facebook and Twitter registering another few millions, there’s no waiting for the 50-day run to declare the film a hit. A gathering of informal opinions with a hashtag about a film can make or mar a film’s fortunes even before the first day ends.

A cross-section of instances proves the point that the far-reaching influence of social media reactions and online opinions are spawning both winners and losers.

Take Sarabjit for example — about the life of an innocent Indian farmer serving a death sentence in Pakistan. Despite an intelligent plot and realistic performances, reviews by influential film critics ruined what could have been a powerful film. An obsession with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s acting has ensured the film is faring badly Randeep Hooda’s performance was brilliant! Ditto with another film — a biopic on the life and times of Mohd Azharuddin. It received a ton of brickbats.

Some reviewers panned the film saying it was concentrated more on the nuanced personal life of the cricketer than the batting exploits of the master batsman. Others spoke about the technical aspects of the project — slamming everything from sound to production value.

But the true impact of online film reviews and reactionary tweets can be gauged from two very recent films Brahmotsavam (Telugu) and Sairat (Marathi).

“Brahmotsavam, starring one of Telugu cinema’s biggest stars (Mahesh Babu), had average content and was not particularly a bad film. But from the very first show onwards, the velocity of bad reviews and disparaging remarks about the film absolutely killed any hopes of the film’s revival after its Day One shock. The film’s release in the United States, five hours before India, also caused some irreparable damage — a loss of Rs 40 crore, according to various reports.

But at the same time, little known Sairat received a rousing reception even from non-Marathi film reviewers. The hype train was so long that it has touched a whopping overall collection of Rs 85 crore. People who have seen the movie are talking about it and people who have not seen the movie and talking to the people who have seen the movie — that’s a very profitable circle.

So what are the lessons here Social Media is here to stay and can make a difference because the number of reviewers and their Googlable reviews has jumped manifold since 2007.

Social media can help you if you treat them as part of the mainstream, and concentrate on giving a product that is clear and consistent. An inchoate output is most likely to exaggerate the weaknesses and depreciate the goodness of a film. Also, comments online have made film criticism unabashedly instant.

There is a symbiotic relationship between the film and the critic that is bursting at the seams. Are film makers ready for it Not when they see comments as spam. Not when online critics take the name of an original film which the director has forgotten to acknowledge... and so on. It all depends on content... because social media cannot trash an eventual blockbuster. Baahubali started off with mixed reviews but became something big. Goes to prove the point — even Social Media cannot fight a trendy film.

The author can be reached at sridhar.sattiraju@gmail.com