A film reviewer can be a director’s best friend or worst enemy. It was hence not surprising, when to a question about whether he knew of anyone in Bollywood who has paid for a good review for a film, director Nikhil Advani’s answer was an instant “Yes”. Had he himself done so? the answer was an expectedly unequivocal “No”.
The open forum at Mumbai Film Festival on whether film reviews matter, thus threw up some interesting points and counter points, and many funny quips.
Hindustan Times national cultural editor Mayank Shekar recounted how he was once offered money for a favourable response to an unnamed film but he refused. “It was something like three lakh rupees for three stars. I am stupid. I probably gave the film three stars anyways but missed out on the money,” he said, tongue firmly in cheek.
Veteran film writer Bhawana Somaaya had the audience laughing when she joked: “I’m the most unlucky of the lot. In decades of writing about cinema, not once has anyone even approached me with money. It’s insulting.”
Reliance Entertainment CEO Amit Khanna, who began as a film reviewer in his teens but was later associated with different sectors of the film industry, put things into perspective when he said: “It’s a myth that film reviews have a bearing on the fate of a film. A five star can often fail to get even five extra viewers to a film.”
Mayank countered him by saying: “I am not here to either make a film a hit or a flop. I am here to express my views on the film as objectively as I can through my reviews.”
Anupama Chopra recounted the time when her review of “Bodyguard” inspired the ire of Salman Khan fans who threatened her with bodily harm. “I had to go around with a bodyguard for a week for panning ‘Bodyguard’,” she said, leaving the audience giggling.
“Today a major part of the P&A money goes into the PR of a film. Hence, even if critics pan a film, they have ways of giving it a spin through PR to show a film in good light. Considering this and that today someone with a huge follower base on Twitter can have a greater influence than an established film critic, I really don’t know how much a film review matters,” said Nikhil Advani.
There was no consensus achieved in the forum, but that did not mean the audiences did not have fun while the forum lasted.