Film critic Anna M.M. Vetticad wears many hats: a journalist for 18 years, a freelancer for now, a blogger, social media consultant and visiting faculty at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi. Her decision to blog reviews of all the Hindi films released in Delhi NCR last year led to her first book, The Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic (Om Books International). Here she is in an exclusive chat with DCGA (Delhi Cine Goers Association) Representative, Aastha Jain :
Tell us about your book. Is it a compilation of your reviews?
No, the book is not a compilation of my reviews although there was a publishing house that was interested in something of the sort. But through 365 days of reviewing every single Hindi film released in the entire NCR and then tracking down the makers of even the most unknown films among them, I ended up learning so much about the industry that the book has ended up as an overview of Bollywood. It answers all sorts of questions: Why are women in such a weak position in Bollywood? Why are producers queasy about gay characters in scripts? Why do they avoid addressing the political unrest in Kashmir? Why are they irresponsible in their portrayal of persons with disabilities? Why do we hear of so many films these days setting opening-weekend records with their collections but no one seems to have silver jubilee runs like in the old days? Why do some producers make beautiful films but fail to promote them? I can go on. The point I’m making is that the book really and truly is an overview of Bollywood, and through the prism of contemporary Bollywood, I’d like to believe that I’m telling a story of contemporary India.
Yes, firstly as a journalist I am not used to people being surprised or worried that I want to interview them. But during my research for this book I encountered several people who’ve made terrible films on the sidelines of Bollywood, and most of them had this question, “Why do you want to interview me?” They were wary of me. I also met some very interesting people working on the margins of the industry. There’s a businessman from Mozambique who made his Bollywood debut in a god awful film last year. There’s also a wonderfully talented deaf-mute actor who made his debut in an extremely sweet film that unfortunately no one saw due to poor marketing. This boy went on to help Ranbir Kapoor in his preparations for Barfi! The gentleman from Mozambique makes for an amusing story but it’s the other actor, Ranbir’s associate, that I hope you will take away with you from the book.
India’s Censor Board is infamous for its archaic regulations. What is the future of Indian films in this context?
It’s only fair to point out that the Censor Board has evolved greatly in the past year or so. It’s a sign of these changing attitudes in the Board that Gangs of Wasseypur 1&2 were passed despite the abuses, violence and sexual openness. However, the Board still needs to be more consistent in its decisions that continue to occasionally vary from film to film. Something also needs to be done about the ratings system. U, U/A and A suggest that the maturity levels of a 17-year-old and a 13-year-old are the same, that the maturity levels of a 12-year-old and 5-year-old are the same. And if a film has been given an A, meaning Adult, rating then why should cuts be imposed? America’s G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17 narrow it down much better. Considering how far we’ve come already, I’m sure we’ll get there.
What do you like most: being a writer, blogger, journalist, teacher or social media consultant?
Each of these is a different facet of journalism. Being an author is a natural extension of a journalist’s role as an observer of the world around us. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc are new media that provide alternative platforms to members of the public and professional journalists to air news and views. Some people noticed how enthusiastic I am about these spaces and approached me to advise them on these matters which is how I became a consultant. I teach entertainment journalism. So you see, through all this I’m being a journalist which is something I utterly and completely love.
Do you ever find yourself awed by the stardom of the celebrities you interview?
Never. As a journalist I have no business being in awe of any celebrity I meet for work. You know something? Stars respect that.