In search of a new perspective

by Monty Majeed

God's own country—that is what the state I was born in, Kerala, India, is popularly known as. Come December, and it transforms into 'Godard's own country', an indication that the international film festival held in the capital city, Thiruvananthapuram, has begun. The crowd that flocks to the cinema halls as delegates for this festival is, in itself, testimony to what cinema means to us as a nation.

Monty Majeed

From lungi-clad rickshaw drivers to housewives, students, senior citizens and businessmen, the fans of world cinema come together irrespective of differences in caste or color. The story is pretty much the same elsewhere in the country. The love for films is palpable; sometimes in your face. Actors are considered gods and their life-size cut-outs are bathed in milk. Conversations peppered with film references are the norm, and fashion sensibilities are shaped by the clothes donned by onscreen sweethearts. Being Indian, it is, thus, hard to be oblivious to the existence of films.

However, the state of film criticism here is far from evolved. Films are "reviewed," which means the story is retold and the opinions of the writer are thrust upon readers in the name of criticism. In-depth analyses of films find little space amid the clutter of celebrity gossip that bring in advertisements and push up circulation figures of publications. Having grown up watching films in more than three different languages, it is an undying love for the form that drew me towards writing about it. With my writing, I strive to present different perspectives to view a film from, help the reader engage with it at a deeper level, and maybe even start a conversation around it.

Cinema opens windows into the culture of unseen lands and tells the stories of unknown people. The film critic, then, becomes a companion in the process, an unavoidable link that helps bind this cultural ecosystem together. With the endless possibilities that the internet and social media offer, the art of criticism, I feel, is witnessing a revival now. It is unfair and even foolish to blame digital media for diluting the essence of serious film writing, because unlike print media, it offers ample space for long-form writing and is not restricted by physical boundaries. As young film writers, I feel we need to use this strong device to find a place for ourselves in the ongoing global conversation on film.