Films are intimate in a way that few experiences in life are. Is it any surprise then that the fiercest arguments and the most laborious of discussions are often about them? Criticism of one’s favourite films is often looked at as an attack on oneself; how often have we seen people defending films passionately, as though their own reputation were at stake? But of course, where there is ardour, there is a breeding ground for error. And over the years, I’ve noticed a pattern, with some dubious defences often coming to the fore. Here are five popular ones, and why they are fundamentally flawed:
1. “Let’s see you make a film”
This isn’t as much an argument, as it is a subtle ad hominem attack. What they really mean is: “I’m sure you can’t make a film.” But wait, should only creators criticise other creations? Does good understanding of the medium arise only from practising it? Does Harsha Bhogle need to have played professional cricket before calling Ganguly out on his often-disappointing legside play? Do you need to know the exact amount of mascarpone cheese that goes into making a tiramisu in order to express your distaste when it’s badly made?
2. “I’m sure you’re a fan of insert-name-of-random-actor”
This is so designed so as to suck you into a Star A vs. Star B battle, which, like the present horror films trend in Tamil cinema, is unlikely to ever come to a graceful end. This is usually floated by those who know that the film they’ve criticised is defenceless. It’s comparable to that school kid who, when at a loss for anything meaningful to say, yells, “Idiot!” It’s a bait; walk away.
3. “Come on, they’ve put in so much work”
The well-intentioned belief here is that the amount of work put into a film must somehow be rewarded with proportional appreciation. Here’s another cricket analogy to debunk that. It doesn’t matter that a bowler’s run-up begins from the boundary line, if he ends up getting clobbered for a six. You want to talk about hard work? Well, how about the film The Thief and the Cobbler that took 30 years of painstaking hand-drawn animation to make? If it had turned out to be a terrible film, I dare say you’d be right in saying so.
4. “Ha, if Hollywood did it, you’d appreciate it”
This straw-man attack usually stems from the notion that those critical of Tamil cinema are somehow more accepting of similar films from other languages, especially those from across the seas, and take pride in being so. This defence is usually employed to protect Tamil films whose subjects seem inspired from Hollywood. Say, if you were to criticise the just-released Miruthan , you should expect to have somebody retort, “But I’m sure you liked Zombieland ?” This is the argument K. S. Ravikumar took recourse in, when he said that the very same people who criticised Lingaa ’s parody-of-a-climax-sequence were the ones appreciative of Spider-Man . Did he really pit a mutated superhero’s ability to swing from buildings, against a perfectly normal, elderly man somehow suddenly, conveniently, being able to ride a bike off a cliff, only to jump from it and fly in mid-air before calculatedly landing on a hot-air balloon floating by?
5. “At least, it’s a different subject”
This is perhaps the least harmful of all five. It usually comes from somebody who’s become pretty jaded with seeing mundane regional films, and is so relieved that something unique has come along that they believe it must be given a long rope. During the last couple of weeks, we’ve had at least two films that fall squarely into this category. Unfortunately, a unique idea alone doesn’t a good film make.
In this age of social media and one-line Twitter debates, flawed arguments aren’t limited to just these five, of course. What about you? Are there any other recurring bad defences you encounter, that leave you more frustrated than learning that yet another masala horror film is being made?