The Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic is journalist Anna MM Vetticad's account of a year in which she resolved to blog reviews of every single Hindi film released in the NCR (National Capital Region)...not just the high-profile, well-promoted films, or big-banner productions with major stars, but literally every single one of them. Through the experience of viewing and reviewing those 121 films and interviewing the people who made them, the author chronicles the changing face of Bollywood, discovering in the process an industry including and yet going beyond the glamorous stars. This is the other Bollywood where beautiful small films routinely disappear without a trace and where an array of dismal films are made on the sidelines to satisfy personal egos. In this book, you will meet the talented actor who trained Ranbir Kapoor for his role as a deaf-mute person in Barfi, but whose own debut feature flopped because of inadequate marketing. You will also meet a businessman from Mozambique who made his Bollywood debut after years of trying, a wealthy Indian industrialist laying the foundation for the acting career he is determined to have, and a former superstar lost in his own world. Through the microcosm of Bollywood, this book discusses the ethics of filmmaking, film criticism and film marketing in India, and raises important political and social questions that would concern an increasingly discerning audience.
This is a book by a sentient film reviewer whose critical tone at no point attempts to mask a deep and abiding affection for the Hindi film industry. With both humour and pathos, The Adventures of an Intrepid Film Critic gives readers an overview of contemporary Bollywood not attempted so far.
Here's an excerpt from the book:
… It all began with a strange New Year resolution - to blog reviews of every Bollywood film released in my home city Delhi and its suburbs without missing a single one as far as possible. Most of us are aware that India is the world's largest producer of films, but the point was well and truly driven home to me only when I embarked upon this little adventure. I drove long distances to visit theatres I had not set eyes on before, to see films that were not being released anywhere else in Delhi.
I discovered areas in the National Capital Region that I have not seen before in the city of my birth where I have spent all my life. I took just one 10-day vacation from viewing and reviewing in these 365 days, but returned home to a backlog of nearly a dozen films - yes, THAT'S how many Hindi films are released! I contacted producers to procure unreleased DVDs of films I missed while on that brief break. And by the end of the year, I had 121 reviews on my blog annavetticadgoes2themovies, of films showing within a 60-70 km radius of my home - there were about half a dozen that were beyond the reach of even my determination and dedication.
It was a physically exhausting, financially consuming, intellectually draining exercise! Imagine then what I would have endured if I'd decided to cover every film made in every Indian language, not just Hindi! I would have gone bankrupt and passed out from fatigue, I guess.
You may well ask what I gained from this bizarre undertaking! Well for a start, I thought I knew until now how bad a truly bad film can be, but I learnt that it can actually get worse. The public may rant against Ram Gopal Varma ki Aag, Mani Ratnam's Raavan and Anurag Basu's Kites, but let me assure you that these were bad films which still maintained certain basic standards that we as viewers have a right to take for granted. As a film journalist though, I've had the misfortune of watching some films so terrible and so beyond debate that I wonder why anyone bothered to make them! My worst experience in the pre-2011 era of my life had been an icky film called Ladies Tailor in which the leading man (Rajpal Yadav) gets turned on while measuring his female customers' thighs, and Deshdrohi starring Kamaal Rashid Khan a.k.a. KRK who needs training in walking, talking, standing, sitting, smiling and even staring into space. And then in 2011, when I watched Tension Doooor (yes, with four 'o's which I will explain later in this book), Be-Careful, Chitkabrey - Shades of Grey, Tum Hi To Ho and Ye Stupid Pyar, I realised that there exists a parallel universe of pathetic films that most viewers are not even aware of - films made by indulgent parents to satisfy the vanity of their misguided sons; films in which rich businessmen cast themselves in moments of self-indulgent weakness; films sometimes made by people who genuinely don't realise they are not cut out for this field; films by delusional filmmakers who blame their box-office failures on audience indifference to niche cinema, not on the indifferent quality of their work; films made by once-respected people (it hurts me to say this) who stubbornly refuse to hang up their boots…
(Om Books International; Rs 295; with a Foreword by Ranbir Kapoor):