How do I embrace a painting when in front of one- through the intrigue held in its strokes, the embedded undercurrent of symbolism or it’s auction price? What if its price is the only yardstick to draw parallel with the other paintings on display or the previous works of the same creator? If so, the skewed leftovers of this apples & oranges comparison would leave me with nothing but price tags and wealth trivia; hardly an inference one would say.
Talking of apples and oranges-one’s penetratingly saccharine and crunchy, while the other is citrus and sour . Different textures, different patrons. Though fruits, they’re as dissimilar the night and dawn. And they aren’t the only fruits in the vast ecosystem of fruits, each one unique and fascinating from the other. Born out of different plants branched out of different seeds sown into different geographies under different conditions. So, how rational would my appreciation be if it was out of stock taking of the fortunes made by the orchards or the turnover done by the exporters dealing in them.
If you asked my grandpa to pick a movie indelibly etched in his mind, he would probably reminisce about a movie starring either Dilip Kumar or Sivaji Ganesan. The pink in his face would give away his fond nostalgia, as he would ruminate about the story or hum a line or two of a close song. If you asked my mom about a film from her teenage, she would either talk about a Kamal Haaasan classic or an Amitabh Bachchan movie from his “pre-angry young man” days. She would talk fondly about the visionary Balachander was, for his deft handling of volatile subjects with grace and poignance or about movies that stayed afloat in public memory on the sheer strength of Ilaiyaraja‘s magic. Movies meant memories to them, bookmarks to the chapters in their lives.
If one were to ask the same to my college going cousin, a movie buff mind you, he would proudly talk about the opening weekend collections of his star’s film along with painful statistics of the movies it toppled along its ascent to the top and how close it got to the elusive hundred crore club. He would probably remember songs by their placement in the aircheck or the I-tunes chart, if not by his ringtone. Not surprising given the- “loudest the rightest, quantity is quality”, maxim of his generation.
Niches have faded into seclusion before the cliche churning behemoths of mass approval. Works of art that dial up introspection and epiphanies have gotten relegated to Netflix, as movie halls fill in as dams holding footfalls from the avalanche of promotions. The most promoted movies end up being the most preferred ones over the fate fashioning first weekend, not so surprising given the amnesiac span of attention of the audience that can only hold up the last flamboyant splash.
You don’t see men debating about the good parts and the bad parts of a movie long after the lights have come on. They instead make small talk about whether it would break even or end up losing money, when all that is left of their stake in the movie is a torn ticket and popcorn calories. Somehow the average internet denizen seems to have been stung by the box-office bug. Agreed that the air of capitalism is inundating and the producer’s parlance percolates till the very roots.But it’s not like the stock exchange, where one frantically tracks the movement of his share price. Maybe it is to do with the rudimentary head rush that comes with pitting things against each other- as dissimilar as they’re -to see as to which one among them goes the farthest north.
Probably the ubiquitous availability of too much information from a zillion box office tracking sites and trade analysts piques this misplaced fiduciary interest. They’re like the class teachers who announce the ranks alone, without going into the nitty gritty of any of the subjects. Can I just watch a wonderful movie at home ensconced before the box and leave it just at that? Well, not entirely. By night, I’ll have the summary of the TRP wars and where my movie stood, like a diligent annual report of a company I had put my money into.I just can’t stop with the knowledge of how the movie was, but also have to be informed about how it batted for the channel playing it. So next time I watch a gem like Manorama Six Feet Under on TV, I’ll watch and recommend it to a friend with an air of charity; instead of respect subconsciously. This dirty dichotomy of movies into hit or flop, instead of good or bad has left with us with “mass” produced movies targeted at a wider audience. But where’s the charm in finding demand to a newly opened arrack shop, in an island full of drunkards.
We can’t afford to have Tarentinos, Guy ritchies,Myskins and Dibakar Banerjees as their audacious works are frowned upon by the high priests of the industry, the producers, for their movies only generate negligible profits that the trade pegs as sleeper hits or break evens. As a bunch of outlaws perceived to masturbate their heads out of in the name of movie-making, they barely find takers even among their target audience-the supposed creme de la creme . Yet we’ll find the balls to nonchalantly rave about Annie Hall, Birdman, Perks of being a wallflower and the impotency of the film industry to churn such films. Not just that, we would make religious beelines to Bhai films to only bitch about the stinking records they go on to make, while patiently waiting for a good torrent of the home grown “offbeat” movies these guys make. After all, its only fair to observe anomalies in isolation, right!
Another conundrum I’m yet to wrap my head around is the fracas around the youtube hits a trailer of a movie gets. It’s like trying to gauge the looks of a person by the number of people who had seen his silhouette. Like this isn’t embarrassing enough, every million views clocked is commemorated with paid trends on social media. The euphoria around a movie is inch-taped with these metrics, like buying a ticket was same as watching a minute long video.
Legend has it that Nayagan didn’t exactly get off to a flying start at the box office in the first few days of its release, before good press and word of mouth caught on like fire and rest as they say is history. But we don’t have the luxury of a gestation period these days for such organic turnarounds to happen . It has to spike up northwards in its first weekend and break even by Sunday night or the trade would pronounce it dead the following Monday. Then a week later, we’ll have eulogies like the ones we had for Anbe Sivam deconstructing it into minute details. The salt to the wound wouldn’t stop there. Years after they let it plummet; they’ll call it a classic, put it up on their all time favorites list and even make merchandise out of it. But the producer wouldn’t dare to tread that path as gratuitous columns and awards didn’t pay his interests the last time. With him will go another person to the other side – greener and blockbuster – to place art in the altar of commerce.