Film criticism should be based on principles to bring about a societal change, says film critic Yamuna Rajendran.
Is Maniratnam's Guru a milestone in Indian cinema? Why is the sword sequence in Pudupettai compared to Akira Kurosawa's filmmaking? Why is Paruthiveeran considered a realistic movie?
Yamuna Rajendran, Tamil film critic from London, raised these questions and gave the answers too at an interaction with film lovers organised by Konangal Film Society.
"The protagonist in Paruthiveeran is chased by 60 people. He reaches a safe place; the others reach 25 minutes later. Where is realism here and why is such a movie compared to Latin-American filmmaking? And, is the free trade concept propagated in Guru the only route to success?" he asks.
This is where film criticism comes in, he states. "Globalisation encourages `aesthetic' criticism. What we require is `principles-based' criticism to tell people about world cinema, about reality and try to bring about a change," says Yamuna Rajendran, whose book, Arasiyal cinema - 16 film makers, talks about the creative world and the unique film making of Ritwik Ghatak, Oliver Stone, Akira and other master film makers.
Chaos in audience
He says restrained critiques create chaos in the minds of the audience. "But, when criticism is based on principles, it exposes the fakeness in commercial cinema and redefines societal values."
Filmmakers in the 60s started off as film critics. "Directors like Jean-Luc-Godard from Greece, American film maker Robert Redford and Italian film makers presented films based on the political developments. And, film festivals such as Cannes or the one in London served as a get-together for bringing about such change," he adds. Now, they have turned battlegrounds.
If Chinese films gained importance in the `80s with realistic portrayals of the situation in China, Iranian cinema narrated the struggles, the political situation and the poverty of the people through the eyes of children.
Knowledge of history
"The elements of historical consciousness, time of the event and the place are missing in new-age filmmaking. They exaggerate, deviate or distract the audience from serious issues. A film like Kannathil Muthamittal fails to deal with any central phenomenon, a historical issue or an ethnic issue," he adds.
This film critic rates Julie Ganapathy as a black mark in director Balu Mahendra's career. "It is a shot-by-shot copy of Steven Kings' Misery. However, his Sandhya Raagam is a masterpiece," he adds. Asked about Cheran's Autograph and Thavamai Thavamirundhu, he says: "When compared to the existing Tamil films, new concepts look better."
Rajendran, who has watched over 6,000 films, says alternative cinema (documentaries and short-films) have taken on the role of activists to handle social issues.
Kanchana Srinivasan agrees. A documentary filmmaker, he has been running a film society in Tirunelveli for 16 years, and has come out with a film on the Thamirabararani issue. "Look for issues around you and convert them into films," he says.