India Uncut

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Anurag Kashyap on Khalid Mohammad and Indian film criticism

I wish Anurag Kashyap would pay more attention to grammar and punctuation, which would render his posts more reader-friendly, but I couldn't agree more with what he has to say about Khalid Mohammad (he starts off by talking about Kabul Express):
Well i have been dying to see Kabul express..mostly positive reviews barring few..but then bad reviews were from the same few who loved it can be ignored.. [...] it might not even be in the top lists of the year but it definitely is in the top ten of the most courageous attempt of the year..and khalid Mohammad who shits in his pants on the sets of his own movie, how would he ever hold it together if he had to even visit the place like Kabul..the same guy wrote something similar for haasil..well the land and the mileu he so made fun of and called it unreal had sehar and omkara following up..and he missed people in Kabul not stopping to eat..he did not miss the india, pakistan politics and conflicts and changing equations in Veer Zara..may be his equations have changed with Yashraj..I have a question for him..”how old was zohra sehgal in veer zara when she died,considering the number of years srk was in jail and all the other time transactions in the film”

Anyway its not about him..i am just lamenting the fact that we so lack good critics in this country.. "progress of any society depends on its art and the evolution of any artform depends on its critics..and our digression is the proof of lack of them”.. [Emphasis in original.]
And later, Kashyap writes:
Khalid Mohammad is no Francois Truffaut..he is just a wannabe..nikhat or deepa are not pauline kael..our film magazines are not cahiers du cinema..this is not paris in the fifties or sixties when cinema was all passion..we are frogs in a well.and we will pull down everyone who wants to climb out..
Truer words were never said.

A decade ago, most readers in India did not have the context to realise how bad their film critics were: only a few, elite people got to read the Eberts and the Kaels, and most of us had no access to quality international cinema. (The Hollywood stuff that got released here was mostly mainstream pap.)

But now that's changed. The internet has increased our access to quality writing in cinema, and Indian reviewers can no longer get away with either mediocrity or plagiarism. (The latter gets caught especially fast, as happened in the cases of Nikhat Kazmi and Gautaman Bhaskaran.) Good films are also much more accessible, and my local DVD library has everything by Kiarostami, Kieslowski and Kubrick.

As these cultural influences shape us, hopefully they will also shape the cinema that we consume. But even if we tire of the entrenched, mediocre critics out there, the newspapers don't have efficient feedback systems that can alert them to that, and we shall have to suffer people like Mohammad and Kazmi for a while yet. Smart readers, of course, can find their own alternatives, such as the excellent blogs of Jai Arjun Singh and Baradwaj Rangan.

(Link to Kashyap's post via email from reader Mahesh Rao.)
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