By Surendra Bhatia
Google is wonderful: a patient lists his symptoms and gets detailed analyses of his ailment, cures and alternative medical options too… so, by the time he goes to a doctor, he knows it all — except that, as he is soon made to realise, much of what he has learnt is half-baked, incomplete and often unrelated to his actual illness. Almost in the same fashion, almost every critic in Bollywood, or reviewer, or TV film show host spouts box-office figures and indulges in business analysis of Bollywood films without understanding either the methodology of collection of data or how back-end deals (with stars, for instance) and interest liabilities on investments affect the bottom line. Like patients with symptoms, these so-called film experts, too, draw data, analysis and conclusion from Google or from published writings of trade experts and present it as their own; it might make them look intelligent to commoners but they come out as idiots to those who know the film business.
While these liberties may seem par for the course for the others from various media, writing and commenting on films, it is particularly galling that reviewers, too, have fallen into the trap of mixing half-understood business analysis in their critique of Bollywood films. Some years back, not too long ago, newspapers/magazines considered reviewing films important and prestigious, and the task was usually handled by a veteran journalist/reviewer with decades of experience. These were the years when guys like Khalid Mohammed, Iqbal Masood and Deepa Gehlot would reviews films and they were read avidly not only by audiences but also by Bollywood insiders. Their review was an analysis of the film in totality, its narrative, acting, technical prowess and its overall entertainment quotient. Bollywood was usually not pleased with their reviews but no one could accuse them of not being adept at their jobs. And they certainly did not bother to predict the possible box-office performance of films. Frankly, the box-office figures had almost nothing to do with their reviews, which were focused entirely on merits and demerits of a film as cinema. Today, Bollywood reviews are manned by the newest bunch of journalist-inductees; the job is seen as lightweight and time-consuming, having to wander from one preview cinema to another, watching three-hour long films. What would one expect of these newbies? These guys latch on to Google to ferret out backgrounders on films and their expected box-office performance and pass judgement on the film in their reviews like they do on a restaurant, on their Twitter page. It has become so non-serious that no one takes them seriously, not readers, not their editors and certainly not Bollywood. They understand neither cinema nor the business of cinema but write as if they are masters of all. It is Ms. Google really that has made such people Jack of none and Master, or so they would like to believe, of all.